Afghan President Karzai earns $525 a month
Anti-graft body declares assets to provide transparency
Afghan president Hamid Karzai earns just $525 a month, has less than $20,000 in the bank and owns no land or property, according to a declaration of his assets on Sunday by an anti-graft body.
Although his modest remuneration is five times the national average, it contrasts sharply with salaries of leaders in the West, where U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron rake in around $400,000 a year.
Karzai's assets were published by the High Office for Oversight and anti-Corruption Commission as part of a decree aimed at providing greater transparency among officials.
Although the Taliban insurgency remains the greatest threat to Afghanistan's stability, graft at almost every level of society remains a major complaint of ordinary Afghans and anyone doing business with the country.
The anti-graft body is registering the assets of at least 2,000 officials -- including ministers, members of parliament, senior military and police officers and provincial leaders -- and will start publishing them this week.
"This covers assets held by officials, their wives and children below the age of 18," Mohammad Yasin Usmani, the commission's chief, told Reuters on Sunday.
Any official found to have withheld information risked prosecution, he said.
Senior current and former Afghan officials -- including two of Karzai's deputies -- are believed to own buildings and assets worth tens of millions of dollars -- at home and abroad.
Some have also been involved in major contracts awarded by foreign forces, and police have been questioning 17 current and ex-ministers on suspicions of graft.
Exaggerated by media
While Karzai has acknowledged a corruption problem, he says it is exaggerated by Western media and insists the biggest source of graft is poor oversight of billions of dollars in aid contracts that dwarf Afghanistan's budget.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates conceded in March that Washington needed to do more to clean up its contracting procedures.
The declaration of assets, signed by Karzai, said he earned $525 a month and had €15,635 ($18,762) and $134 in cash two Commerzbank accounts in Germany.
While it listed no land or property, it said Karzai -- who is married to a stay-at-home physician and has a young son -- had jewellery and other valuables worth $11,036.
The list makes no mention of assets held by Karzai's brothers and other relatives -- several of whom run businesses at home and abroad.