Statements from its finance ministry have revealed that spending on security agencies consumed 27 per cent, equal to $255 million, of the Palestinian Authority’s total spending during the first quarter of the year, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed news site has reported.
An official spokesman of the security forces, Adnan Al-Damiri, announced at the end of April that the Palestinian government has decided to resume promotions within the agencies after a hiatus of more than three years due to financial obstacles. This will put even more strain on the government’s spending, which amounted to nearly $950 million during the first quarter of 2014.
The Palestinian security services employ more than 70,000 personnel in the occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including military intelligence, preventive security, general intelligence, national security and the police. Spending on security represents a significant burden on the budget amid serious reservations from the private sector. It has been claimed on several occasions that the PA does not need to employ such a large number of security officers.
The president of the Palestinian Businessman’s Association, Mohammed Masrouji, told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, “There are more important priorities at the present time, including developmental and investment projects that could advance the Palestinian economy and reduce the high unemployment rate.”
According to the Secretary-General of the Federation of Trade Unions of Palestine, Shaher Saad, speaking on the occasion of International Workers’ Day on Thursday, “Nearly 370,000 people out of the1.1 million total workforce are unemployed.” Official statistics from the Central Bureau of Statistics claim that the figure is nearer 270,000 unemployed across the Palestinian territories.
The Palestinian Authority is planning to spend $350 million on developmental and investment projects over the next few years. A representative of the private sector, Samir Haleilah, said that the government has only implemented 10 per cent of the total announced projects due to its fiscal deficit, while transferred the remaining funds to the basic budget.
Economic researcher Muhammad Qirsh warned that the resumption of promotions for security employees will raise the sector’s slice of the budget to more than 35 per cent as there are thousands waiting for their bonuses. “Despite the security services’ importance the Palestinians do not need such a large number of security personnel,” he insisted. Qirsh also pointed out that there are more important priorities for the government to focus on, including new factories and economically productive projects.
The Palestinian Prime Minister in the West Bank, Rami Hamdallah, announced last week that the government has decided to halt recruitment to the security services in order to accommodate its expenses in 2014 and provide money for the treasury. “The government decided with President Mahmoud Abbas to transfer security employees from one agency to another when needed without making any new appointments,” he said.
The PA announced a cluster of austerity measures in February, including the rationalisation of spending, maximizing local revenues, reducing dependence on foreign grants and aid and stopping new appointments in all sectors except in education and health.