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

FILE PHOTO: IMF Managing Director Lagarde attends the Women's Forum Americas in Mexico City

MANAMA (Reuters) - Growth in the West bank and Gaza must be focused on jobs, the head of the International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday, at the start of a conference on the Trump administration's $50 billion (39.43 billion pounds) 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% this year and says unemployment stands at 30% in the West Bank and 50% 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.


(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick, Davide Barbuscia and Lisa Barrington; Editing by Andrew Heavens)