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Kazakhs draw up unemployment plan

ALMATY, Kazakhstan. March 11. (AP) Oil-rich Kazakhstan will spend more than $900 million this year on fighting rising unemployment as the global financial crisis continues to take a toll on Central Asia's largest economy, a senior minister said Tuesday. Deputy Prime Minister Erbol Orynbaev said $930 million will be used to finance retraining programs for unemployed workers and provide support for ailing domestic companies. Full details of the plan, which authorities hope will set the conditions for post-crisis recovery, will be completed by the end of April, Orynbaev said. Local authorities will also contribute funds toward programs designed to minimize joblessness, he said. Kazakhstan has been badly hit by falling oil prices and diminished demand for its energy and mineral resources. Industrial production has fallen by more than 12 percent since the start of the year, according to government figures. More than 280 businesses, employing around 141,000 workers, have ceased or reduced operations, Industry Minister Vladimir Shkolnik said earlier this month. Under new anti-crisis plans unveiled last week, Kazakhstan is set to boost its economic stimulus package by $4 billion, up from $21 billion previously, using commodity sector revenues normally diverted to the National Fund. The National Fund, which was created to assist in developing the economy, is fed by taxes on oil and currently has more than $22 billion. й 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Government efforts on stemming the crisis has so far been mainly focused on bolstering the financial sector by providing capital support for the country's major lenders. The country's banks were among the first to be hit by the worldwide liquidity crunch because of high reliance on foreign borrowing. Top banks have survived, but the government says lenders will need to pay back around $12 billion next year. Kazakhstan effectively nationalized the two banks last month, acquiring more than 75 percent of the shares in each. The government has said efforts to prop up the banks will only be temporary and there is no prospect of permanent nationalization.


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