Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Gaza's Economy Collapsing

Gaza’s economy is in “free fall” and half the population is living under the poverty line, the World Bank has warned, citing a decade-long blockade by Israel and crippling cuts to funding and aid.

The report said the finances of the 25-mile long besieged strip were “collapsing”, liquidity had dried up, and plunging aid flows were no longer able to stimulate growth. The Palestinian territory’s economy has consequently shrunk by 6 per cent in the first quarter of the year "with indications of further deterioration since then", it said.

Every second person in Gaza’s 1.8 million-strong population is now living in poverty. Youth unemployment, meanwhile, had soared to over 70 per cent.

Marina Wes, World Bank director for Gaza and the West Bank, called for “urgent, real and sustainable solutions to the crisis” warning it was impacting the security situation in the region. United Nations officials have already warned that “Gaza can explode any minute."

“The economic and social situation in Gaza has been declining for over a decade but has deteriorated exponentially in recent months and has reached a critical point,”  Ms Wes said. “Increased frustration is feeding into the increased tensions which have already started spilling over into unrest and setting back the human development of the region’s large youth population." 

The World Bank said the core of the problem was Israel’s decade-long blockade on the strip. It urged Israel to lift restrictions on trade, allow the movement of goods and people, and to extend highly restricted fishing zones to 20-miles  - as agreed in the 1990s. The report said the situation was recently compounded by a controversial decision by the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority to slash $30m a month of funding to Gaza. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has reduced or cancelled salaries to its employees in the Strip over the last year.  The United States announced that it was winding down $60m per year of aid and cancelling all funding to the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency has further exacerbated Gaza’s woes.

In total, the World Bank projected the financing gap to be as large as $600m a year, which can not be plugged by the PA, which was facing its own economic troubles.

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