GAP project boosts employment with funds influx
The massive influx of development funds for the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) has seen unemployment drop in the project's nine provinces from an average of 17.4 percent in 2009 to 11.7 percent today, the project's chief administrator said on Monday.

Speaking at a press conference in Şanlıurfa on Monday, GAP Administration Chairman Sadrettin Karahocagil told reporters that the region's historic unemployment woes have been helped by the TL 38.6 billion ($21.4 billion) so far invested in the project.

The provinces of Şanlıurfa and Diyarbakır, the two principal centers of the massive dam project, have been the chief winners and have seen average unemployment drop from an average of 18.8 percent in 2009 to 8.3 percent today, the chairman said, adding that construction has provided so many jobs that "workers from provinces where unemployment is under 8 percent have also started to come here."

The massive investment comes despite the withdrawal of funding from international backers for the project, which is slated to flood hundreds of villages, a UNESCO World Heritage site and hundreds of archaeological sites along the Tigris River.

Ankara has nevertheless brushed aside objections from abroad and covered the TL 44.5 billion ($24.6 billion) bill with the help of domestic banks, insisting that the project will be completed regardless of losses to the region's environment, cultural heritage or endangered communities. In a country heavily reliant on foreign energy imports for electricity, Karahocagil underlined one reason for Ankara's impatience on Monday, citing the TL 21.3 billion ($11.8 billion) in hydroelectricity generated by GAP dams since 2009.

The employment boost meanwhile may not be entirely attributable to the dam project, Karahocagil acknowledging that much of the employment boost has also been due to new investments under the state's Organized Industrial Zone (OSB) tax break program. That program awards firms investing in underdeveloped provinces, such as the nine southern ones encompassed under GAP, with tax breaks and subsidies for workers' social security payments.

The project has also provided industrialists with access to cheap power, which Karahocagil said has helped the region boost exports by a factor of 10 in the last decade, from TL 689 million ($381.2 million) in 2002 to TL 7 billion ($3.9 billion) in 2012. The GAP project is set be complete in 2017.

(Cihan/Today's Zaman) CİHAN
Last Modified: 2012-11-13 18:00:02
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