IRAQ: Jobs fair aims to reduce unemployment, insurgency
BAGHDAD, 10 July 2007 (IRIN) - Soaring unemployment is said to be indirectly fuelling the insurgency but one non-governmental organisation, the Baghdad-based Karkh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is trying to provide an alternative to the insecurity by organising a jobs’ fair.
The fair - held in Baghdad's al-Zawraa Park on 7 July and attended by nearly 4,000 people - had thousands of jobs on offer. Mainly youths with college diplomas gathered in the early morning and submitted their CVs.
"We believe that when we ensure people have a good life, the security situation will gradually improve," said Engineer Ali Jamil Latif, head of the Karkh Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
In cooperation with Karkh local council in western Baghdad, Latif’s organisation brought together 25 companies as well as several international businesses to offer jobs to people in areas which enjoy relative peace.
"We intended to put companies in direct touch with the unemployed. The unemployed should invest their energy in working in their neighbourhoods instead of joining the insurgents," Latif said.
Latif added that the fair would have a significant effect in reducing unemployment in the Karkh area, said to be running at about 60 percent. The Chamber of Commerce will soon hold another fair in the eastern Baghdad suburb of Rasafa.
Government, USA criticized
"They [government and US forces] are forcing us to join the terrorists," said Abu Ali, a 44-year-old former army officer who attended the fair with two friends.
“They humiliated this country and its people. They should reopen the factories and facilities they demolished four years ago," added Abu Ali, who refused to give his full name for security reasons.
"I tried to work as a tailor or carpenter or sometimes as a driver, but couldn't, and I have a family to feed, what should I do? No one has the right to blame us if we join terrorism," he added.
It is now over four years since the US-led invasion and the new Iraqi government is still struggling with unemployment rates of between 60 and 70 percent, according to a report issued early this year by the Iraqi Planning Ministry.
Government officials have said unemployment is one of the factors fuelling the insurgency as it leaves young men idle and without a purpose in life.
In addition, reconstruction aid diverted to security projects and stagnant oil revenues in the wake of continuing attacks on oil facilities have combined to hamper economic recovery.
Early this year, an audit prepared by the office of the Special Inspector-General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), Stuart Bowen Jr, said insecurity, corruption among Iraqi officials, and weak US contract management had led to tens of millions of dollars in Iraq reconstruction aid going missing.
"The security situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate, hindering progress in all reconstruction sectors and threatening the overall reconstruction effort," said an extract from the 579-page report.
With US$21 billion allocated to it, the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF) is the largest US foreign aid project since the Marshall Plan was launched to rebuild Europe after World War II. About 80 percent of the money has already been paid out, the report said.
On 9 July Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani said there were about 160 attacks by insurgents and saboteurs on the oil industry last year, killing and wounding dozens of employees and reducing exports by some 400,000 barrels a day.
Al-Shahristani said Iraq's oil production during the fiscal year to 1 July averaged 1.964 million barrels a day, compared with 1.853 million barrels a day the year before.
Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
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