Gov't presents plan to develop the Negev

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Finance Minister Ehud Olmert, and Vice Premier Shimon Peres presented a plan Wednesday morning to develop the Negev. The initiative includes plans to increase the population in the Negev from its current half million to 900,000 by 2015, Army Radio reported. The outline also aims to increase the employment rate and to reduce the salary gap between central and southern Israelis to a mere four percent. In addition, the government hopes to attract more students to the area, trying for students to comprise 16% of the Negev's inhabitants. The goals will be achieved through encouragement to invest in the south, development of the tourism industry, the transfer of some factories from the center to the south, and aid to the Beduin community.