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Movement of construction materials to Gaza "important step to break siege"

February 17, 2014 at 1:50 am

An economic expert has expressed his appreciation at the movement of construction materials to the Gaza Strip from Egypt. “It ushers in the reopening the commercial crossing with Egypt which has been closed since 2000,” said Maher Al-Tabaa. “This is an important step towards breaking the Israeli siege imposed on Gaza since 2006.”

Construction materials needed for the Qatar-funded construction projects in Gaza started to flow into Gaza from Egypt last Monday.

“Despite the six-year-Israeli siege, the Gaza Strip survived,” said Al-Tabaa. However, he stressed that if life is to return to normal in the beleaguered territory the siege must be ended completely. “That means lifting all restrictions on exporting industrial and agricultural goods from Gaza markets to the West Bank and the outside world.”

Statistics show that the Gaza Strip suffered a severe rise in unemployment rates because of the siege, peaking at 44.8 per cent in 2008. The latest statistics issued by the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics put the unemployment rate for Gaza in the third quarter of 2012 at 31.9 per cent. Mr. Al-Tabaa puts that slight rise on the second quarter figure down to the Israeli offensive against Gaza in November. The unemployment rate among university graduates in Gaza is a staggering 57.5 per cent, although that figure includes those working in fields other than their own specialisation.

During the Israeli siege, construction materials have been smuggled in Gaza, resulting in a dramatic increase in construction workers, going from 0.8 per cent of the workforce in 2008 to 6.8 per cent n 2012. Many humanitarian NGOs have funded reconstruction projects over the past two years.

According to Maher Al-Tabaa, the shortage of a consistent electricity supply due to Israeli restrictions has had a huge negative impact on the economic cycle. Similarly, the shortage of inward investment and ready cash has damaged the economy.

Although limited exports and the inflow of funds from Qatar will help, Israel’s war on Gaza – with losses estimated at $1.2 billion – and the financial crisis of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank are still hurting the Palestinian economy.