Palestinian Authority pay cut angers Gaza workers

Palestinian Authority pay cut angers Gaza workers

PA says falling foreign aid has left it unable to provide full salaries; others see move as attempt to weaken Hamas with social crisis

Palestinians shop in a new indoor shopping mall in the Gaza Strip, in Gaza City,  Feb. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)
Palestinians shop in a new indoor shopping mall in the Gaza Strip, in Gaza City, Feb. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)

A decision by the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority to impose pay cuts on its civil servants in the Gaza Strip sparked anger among the employees on Wednesday.

The PA said it was forced into the move because its budget has been hit by decreasing foreign aid.

Among hundreds waiting outside a bank in Gaza City to withdraw their salaries was Jawdat Abu Ramadan, who works for a PA-run institute for the disabled and said he found his monthly paycheck of NIS 4,700 ($1,300) had been shaved by NIS 1,700 ($465).

After paying his bills he is left with “just 1,000 shekels” for himself and his three dependents until the end of the month, he told AFP.

Announcing the cutback on Tuesday evening, the Palestinian Authority said it would be temporary.

The 70,000 PA employees in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip are in a bizarre position.

In 2007 the Islamic terror group seized power from the rival Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and ousted the Fatah-dominated PA. Its staff lost their posts, but the PA kept them on its payroll nevertheless.

Hamas set up its own parallel administration with 50,000 staff, whose salaries the PA refuses to pay.

Abbas is regularly accused in the Gaza Strip of abandoning its two million Palestinians, who have been battered by successive wars with Israel and crushing poverty and have been under a rigorous Israeli-Egyptian blockade for 10 years. Israel says the blockade is needed to prevent arms smuggling.

The unemployment rate in the coastal territory is among the highest in the world, at 45 percent.

The wage cuts will have an impact beyond the civil servants themselves, as their purchasing power, Abu Ramadan said, is “the backbone of the Gaza economy.”

“It’s a premeditated massacre,” said Aysha Abu Maghassib, who worked for the Palestinian Authority’s police.

A widowed mother of two, she said that after deductions only about NIS 200 is left from this month’s wages.

Ammar Al-Njjar, 33, demanded that Abbas resign, while Nevin Abu Herbid said she saw “a crisis erupting.”

Hamas called the cuts “arbitrary, inhumane and irresponsible.”

Economist Omar Shaban said they could be a Fatah tactic to weaken Hamas, its bitter rival, by creating a social crisis in the Strip.

But it has led Fatah members from Gaza to leave the party, with the east Gaza membership quitting as a group and individuals from the central and west Gaza districts also resigning.

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