A Syrian newspaper Sunday played a tough joke on the country's unemployed, who represent some 20 percent of the population according to experts, announcing they would receive a monthly payment of $60.
The government daily Tishrin ran a column called "April 1st news" saying there would soon be an increase "in civil servants' salaries and a monthly payment of 3,000 Syrian pounds ($60) for every unemployed person until the implementation of the Syrian program to fight unemployment," announced by the authorities at the end of last year.
Unemployment in Syria stands officially at 9.5 percent of the working population, but economic experts put it at around 20 percent.
The newspaper gag continued by quoting "private sources that had taken part in a secret meeting," saying the Syrian authorities had "studied ways of repatriating some $50 billion stolen from state coffers and placed in foreign bank accounts."
"The government has decided to reopen files on people implicated in major corruption scandals with a view to putting them on trial," the paper continued.
Jordan's official Petra news agency relayed the report, but corrected it some hours later on discovering it was a hoax.
An anti-corruption campaign was launched in Syria after the government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa Miro was set up in March, targeting Miro's predecessor, Mahmud Al-Zohbi, who later committed suicide, along with two government ministers, but the purge is now beginning to run out of steam. — (AFP, Damascus)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)