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Senior Palestinian official says prisoners cost economy $250m

The President of the Palestinian Council for Development and Reconstruction (PECDAR) has said that the 5,100 prisoners held by the Israelis costs the local economy around $250m per annum. Mohammed Shtayyeh told France 24 on Sunday, "The Palestinian economy needs these young men to be part of the workforce."

Shtayyeh, who is also a member of the Fatah Central Committee, pointed out that the Palestinian Authority provides monthly salaries to prisoners inside Israeli jails. "As such, Israel not only deprives the economy of their skills but also forces the PA to spend much-needed funds for no return."

The unemployment rate in the occupied Palestinian territories was 28.6 per cent in 2013 with almost 301,000 out of work, most of them young people. Unemployment among Palestinian graduates reached 48 per cent last year.

Shtayyeh urged donor countries to fulfil their financial pledges to the Palestinian Authority: "The Palestinian government has ratified the 2014 budget, which is estimated at $4.2 billion, including a deficit of $1.2 billion that should be used to pay public sector employees as well as a $400m deficit in public sector projects."

Local economists argue that the PA budget should focus on essential spending due to the authority's financial crisis. The published budget is subject to much debate amongst ordinary Palestinians who regard it as overblown.

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