IMF’s Lagarde says West Bank, Gaza growth must be focused on jobs

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde smiles during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur June 24, 2019. — AFP pic
International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde smiles during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur June 24, 2019. — AFP pic

MANAMA, June 26 — Growth in the West bank and Gaza must be focused on jobs, the head of the International Monetary Fund said today, at the start of a conference on the Trump administration’s US$50 billion (RM207.5 billion) economic plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Business leaders and politicians have gathered in Bahrain to discuss the plan that Washington says is vital to ending the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but which Palestinian leaders have dismissed as pointless without a political solution.

“One of the really good aspects of the plan ... is that it identifies some of the sectors, some of the industrial and economic sectors, that will be conducive to jobs,” IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said during the opening session.

“It cannot be any kind of growth in the West Bank and Gaza, it needs to be job intensive,” she added, listing agriculture, tourism and construction as sectors that “will absorb a lot of labour”.

The IMF expects the Palestinian economy to contract by 1.6 per cent this year and says unemployment stands at 30 per cent in the West Bank and 50 per cent in Gaza.

“There is an economic plan, there is urgency: it is a question of making sure that the momentum is sustained,” Lagarde said.

The IMF has been operating in the West Bank and Gaza since 1995, providing policy advice to the Western-backed Palestinian Authority. — Reuters