(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

The Ministerial Committee on the Non-Jewish Sector, chaired by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, today (Monday), 18 July 2005, unanimously approved a comprehensive development plan for the Abu-Basma Regional Council, which has approximately 25,000 residents in the Bedouin-inhabited areas in the south. The plan is worth approximately NIS 470 million and includes investment in education, transportation, infrastructure, employment, construction and housing, health, social affairs and agriculture.

According to the plan:

The Education, Culture and Sports Ministry will build approximately 300 classrooms and kindergartens; the local education system will be operated by the regional council.

The Transportation Ministry and the Public Works Dept. will establish safety projects, including the paving of access roads.

The National Infrastructures Ministry will provide for sewage systems. The Electric Company will prepare to hook up local communities. The Water Commission will hook up the new communities.

The Industry, Trade and Employment Ministry will recognize local communities as eligible for benefits in the framework of the Capital Investments Encouragement Law and will develop industrial zones in all communities. It will also operate plans to encourage employment and professional training, especially for women.

The Construction and Housing Ministry will plan and finance public institutions in the new communities; the Interior Ministry will work to establish local mosques.

The Health Ministry will allocate funds from its budget for the establishment of mother-and-baby clinics in each community and will operate family health clinics.

It was decided that the Abu-Basma Regional Council would operate a social affairs unit to deal with the Bedouin population. The Social Affairs Ministry, in cooperation with the Prime Minister’s Office Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women will operate specific plans to advance the status of Bedouin women.

The Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry will formulate a master plan for local agriculture.

The foregoing will be implemented in 2005-2008.

The Ministerial Committee on the Non-Jewish Sector also a plan to encourage industry and employment in Arab, Bedouin and Druze sectors. According to the plan, which was formulated by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Industry, Trade and Employment Ministry, NIS 40 million will be allocated to the establishment of industrial zones in Arab communities. A plan will be enacted regarding the integration of Arab communities into existing regional industrial zones. Special assistance will be given to small businesses in order to encourage growth and create new jobs.

Both of today’s decisions were in keeping with the agreement with United Arab List MKs Abdulmalik Dehamshe and Talab el-Sana.

Prime Minister Sharon said that he intends to demand regular updates on the implementation of the various plans and added that, “These seem to me to be good plans but I want to know about the start of work and I intend to go down and inspect matters.”