The Syrian government is considering a billion-dollar plan to create 440,000 jobs in the economically troubled country, the official newspaper Tishrin said Sunday.
Syria, which has an active population of 4.5 million, officially has an unemployment rate of 9.5 percent, but economic experts believe the rate is closer to 20 percent.
The plan, which would start next month and last until September 2005, also calls for annual growth of six percent to accommodate up to 300,000 new workers in the market each year, Tishrin said.
"The plan would include state-issued loans to the unemployed and expanded participation of women in economic affairs," the government newspaper said, adding that the money would come from oil revenue and foreign aid and loans.
The scheme would also work to boost manufacturing industries such as textiles and garments, it said.
Tishrin blamed the unemployment crisis on a decline in investments in the late 1990s and the country's recent drought.
"The problem is serious; at least one person is unemployed in every house in Syria," the newspaper said.
Unemployment is most severe among the young and in the coastal city of Tartus and the southern city of Suwayda, where the rate is officially 20.5 percent and 15.7 percent respectively.
The official newspaper quoted economic experts with varying assessments of the proposed economic strategy.
Ibrahim Ali, chief of the state statistical bureau, called the plan "remarkable, for the first time bringing Syria out of this problem," while Mustapha Abdullah, head of the economic department at Damascus University, cautioned that the government needed to devote twice as much money as the plan was based on official rather than actual jobless figures – DAMASCUS (AFP)
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