The Authority for Economic Development of the Arab, Druse, and Circassian Sectors was recognized last week as the outstanding department of the Prime Minister’s Office, and honored for its achievement in 2013.

The authority, established in 2007, works to strengthen the professional relationship between representatives of Arab society and various ministries, local municipalities and businesses, and to promote integration and maximize the economic potential of the minority sector.

Ayman Saif, director of the authority, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview that he began running the department in 2008 and that since 2010 there have been 14 employees working under him.

Before taking the position, he was a senior manager in the Economic Division of the Prime Minister’s Office, and before that, he worked as an economist in the Economy Ministry (then known as the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry).

His employees often work in the field, visiting Arab municipalities and checking that projects are being carried out as planned.

Saif said that his department works in full cooperation with municipalities and businesses in order to develop economic development plans. This usually involves building an infrastructure for businesses and creating industrial zones that can include new roads and other support structures.

Asked about his plans for the future, Saif said he will strive to develop plans to build up industry, transport and tourism in Arab areas.

The Authority for Economic Development is implementing several important cabinet decisions.

The first decision involves a plan to promote economic growth in minority areas. The second cabinet-approved plan is meant to encourage employment among minorities, and the third involves expanding housing.

These projects are expected to cost a total of around NIS 1.8 billion.

According to the authority, in 2013, 8,471 people were placed in jobs in the sector, and 1,000 housing units were sold in Nazareth and Sakhnin. Also, there was a 27% increase in loans to small businesses and an increase of 40% in the number of exporters among minorities.

The number of minority members using public transport, which currently stands at around 200,000 passengers a week, increased by 580% in the past two years.

Harel Locker, director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, said that the “even though the authority was only established a few years ago, it has become a center of knowledge and activity inside and outside of all government offices.”

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