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Gaza tunnels economy 'booming' after Egypt revolt

Dec. 8, 2011 12:46 A.M. (Updated: Dec. 8, 2011 9:24 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The tunnels economy in the blockaded Gaza Strip is "booming" thanks to policy changes following the ouster of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in February, UN officials say.

An economic report to be released Thursday by UNRWA, the Palestine refugees agency, describes an upsurge in private employment, new imports and construction following the fall of the Mubarak regime.

Although the unemployment rate remains high, construction jobs have grown by more than 9,400, increasing by 3.5 times compared to the first half of 2010, the report says. This accounted for 27.7 percent of all job growth in the year-on-year period.

Moreover, some 42,450 positions were added in the private sector during the same period, 90 percent of all new job gains. Public sector employment grew by 4,660 jobs or 5.1 percent, according to UNRWA's findings.

The numbers reflect previous expectations that a post-Mubarak regime in Cairo would show more concern for the Palestinians, particularly Gazans whose territory borders Egypt as well as Israel.

Mubarak joined in on Israel's blockade in 2006 and 2007 after Hamas' rise to power, although Egypt only operates a pedestrian crossing as opposed to Israel's multiple terminals equipped for goods and fuel.

Even with Egypt's apparent easing of border security in the Sinai, and the increase in jobs and other economic indicators, the figures remain grim. Gaza’s unemployment rate is still among the most severe in the world, the report says.

"Employment jumped by more than 47,000 jobs in first-half 2011, or 24.7 percent to an estimated 237,475."

"The broad unemployment rate declined to 32.9 percent from 45.2 percent in second-half 2010, as the number of unemployed fell 25.7 percent to an estimated 116,675," the report says.

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