Occupation hinders Palestinian growth

Occupation hinders Palestinian growth

paramedics in gaza
Occupation hinders Palestinian growth

A report from the Unctad ascribes the lack of economic growth in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza, including small GDP, high levels of poverty and unemployment, to Israeli action.

From the Newsroom*

São Paulo – The poor Palestinian economic situation worsened in 2013 and should not improve in this and the next few years if Israel continues to occupy and control the flow of people and goods in Gaza and the West Bank. According to the report released this Wednesday (3rd) by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad), as a result of the occupation, unemployment affects 27% of the population fit to work and the blockade of underground tunnels by which goods were transported brought the growth of transportation and construction sectors to a halt.

“Although in 2013 donor aid recovered somewhat from its decline the previous year, it was not sufficient to compensate for the severe effects of the Israeli restrictions on the movement of Palestinian people and goods, pervasive uncertainty, persistent fiscal crisis and gloomy political horizons,” reads the report “Developments in the economy of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” According to the document, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Gaza and the West Bank increased by 12.2% in 2011 and 5.9% in 2012, but should not exceed 1.5% in 2013, the lowest expansion since 2006. The data, however, is still preliminary.

The report notes that the underground tunnels are an important source of income to Palestinians. Said tunnels, however, are continuously taken down by Israel, which claims that in addition to foodstuffs and goods, weapons also are transported through them. Israel also blocked the clearance of products and revenue via customs, which was resumed only in late 2013.

In spite of Israeli control, the report continues, Palestine managed to grow in some periods of 2013. In Gaza, some projects were implemented using donations. The West Bank, in turn, saw some expansion in the end of that year, when Israel lifted restrictions on transfers of customs clearance revenues. In both cases, economic growth was not directly linked to policies implemented by Palestinians.

Unemployment is another challenge to be faced. Nearly 36% of population in Gaza and 22% in West Bank are unemployed. The rate is even higher among women and youth in the 15-24 year-old age group. For them, the unemployment rate is 41%. Among young women, two out of three are out of work. According to the Unctad’s report it is “alarming” to see such an unemployment rate in a country with 70% of the population under 30 years of age.

The report says Palestinian economy may also grow if the West Bank manages to explore the natural resources in Area C, one of the three regions comprising the West Bank. This area spans 61% of the West Bank area. According to the report, Area C has the most fertile lands and could harbour economic activities that could boost growth. The area is under Israeli control.

The document refers to Palestinian economic situation in 2013, in view of the Israeli occupation, so it does not take into account the results of the conflict between Israeli and Palestinian militants in Gaza as of July.  According to the Unctad, the West Bank’s GDP could grow by as much as 7% if it had access to the 32,600 hectares of arable land in the region. The economy could grow another 9% if Palestinian investors were allowed to explore bromine and potash deposits in the Dead Sea.

*Translated by Rodrigo Mendonça

Source: Arab Brazilian News Agency.