06/14/2011, 00.00
PALESTINE – ISRAEL
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Unemployment in Gaza at 46 per cent, highest in the world

Embargo and corruption make any development impossible. The Catholic Church is among the few actors to offer jobs beside the public administration.
Gaza (AsiaNews) – Gaza has the world’s highest unemployment at 46 per cent. More than 260,000 people are without a job, depending on humanitarian aid, out of a population of 1.5 million people, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said in a report.

Fr Marcelo Gallardo, vice chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem, spoke to AsiaNews about it. “Because of the blockade,” he said, “Gaza is isolated from the rest of the world. The port is closed; no goods are moving; and it takes hours just to get through the border crossings with Israel. Any kind of development is almost impossible.”

According to the UN report, Gaza’s public administration is the only large-scale employer with 200,000 people on its payroll in a population of 1.5 million. Getting one of those jobs often requires connections and the right party membership card.

In addition to the blockade, the Strip’s underdevelopment is also due to corruption. According to the Corruption Perception Index (CPI), Palestine is one of the 50 most corrupt nations in the world.

For Fr Gallardo, the situation of political and economic deadlock stops private investments and job creation. The Catholic Church is, with the government, one of the few actors in this field, employing hundreds of people through its social assistance bodies and in its three schools, considered the best in the Gaza Strip.

For the clergyman, rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas is a good thing, because it can create stability, at least at the institutional level, easing the birth of a Palestinian state.

“With the two parties working together, perhaps there will be some improvement,” he said. “However, if the embargo stays, it will be hard to make any substantial changes to the Strip’s economic and social situation.”

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