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World Bank: Palestinians’ standard of living is falling

March 15, 2018 at 12:36 pm

Palestinian children play outside their home in the poverty-stricken quarter of Al-Zaytoon in Gaza City [Ezz Zanoun/Apaimages]

The standard of living in the West Bank is stagnating, after rising significantly in previous years, according to a report released by the World Bank earlier today, which also expressed concern at the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

The latest data suggests that while the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) income has increased by 22 per cent due to better tax measures, GDP per person for Palestinians has fallen. The unemployment rate in the West Bank is currently at 18 per cent, but rises to 40 per cent for adults under 30.

According to the report, one of the main reasons for the stagnating economy is a decrease in Israeli lending to Palestinian banks, triggering a severe credit crunch. A rise in the price of goods in Israel has also led to increased costs for Palestinian families in the West Bank, whilst salaries have remained low.

However the bulk of the research addressed the humanitarian emergency in Gaza, with the Strip having been confronted with an energywater and healthcare crisis for many months. Gaza’s economy expanded 0.5 per cent in 2017, compared to an eight per cent growth in 2016. Meanwhile unemployment rose from 41.7 per cent in 2016 to 43.6 per cent in 2017. Unemployment has also risen, with the report also noting that the PA, which employs 80,000 Palestinians in Gaza, did not pay their salaries for six months in 2017.

Read: Despite economic development in Israel, Arab workers live in poverty

The World Bank presented the situation in the occupied territories in an even bleaker light following current funding crisis of the Palestinian refugees’ agency UNWRA. The report shows that there has been a sharp drop in the donations made to the Gaza Strip, from $400 million in 2016 to only $55 million in 2017. The agency is currently experiencing a deficit of some $446 million.

US President Donald Trump froze some $65 million promised to the organisation last year following the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. UNRWA warned at the time that US cuts will hurt half a million children; the UN agency runs 700 schools, where 525,000 boys and girls study, and operates 143 health clinics.

Yesterday, the UN launched its 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan in Beit Lahiya in the north of the Strip, reiterating calls for the international community to donate to the agency to support their three-year development strategy.

“Overall, the 2018 humanitarian plan appeals for $539.7 million to address urgent humanitarian needs in the areas of protection, food security, health, water and sanitation, shelter and education. Of the request, 75 per cent targets Palestinians in Gaza. Half of the overall amount is for UNRWA emergency projects,” the humanitarian coordinator said at the press conference.

However, the World Bank’s regional director Marina Wes highlighted earlier today that aid alone would not help Gaza in the long term, with trade restrictions on the Strip urgently needing to be lifted to create jobs and increase consumer spending.

Read: UN: $30m in urgent aid for the UNRWA