Palestinian Authority (PA) Finance Minister Shukri Bishara yesterday revealed that international donations to the authority have declined by 60 per cent in the past six years.
This came during an urgent meeting held in Egyptian capital Cairo for Arab finance ministers to discuss ways to assist the PA, which is thought to be on the brink of financial collapse. Bishara called for Arab states to raise a financial safety network worth $155 million a month, Al-Watan Voice reported.
Bishara also stated that international donations to the PA have decreased substantially, from over $1 billion in 2013 to less than $450 million in 2018 – a 60 per cent decrease.
However, Bishara stressed that the PA has “continued implementing [its] strategy, without taking more loans and ensured the public debt does not exceed 11 per cent of GDP”.
Over the past six years, Bishara noted that the PA has pursued several aims: to gradually reduce the budget deficit and to prepare itself for a time when international donations stop. “We succeeded in doubling our income during the past six years through rationalisation and reform, however we decreased income tax from 20 to 15 per cent in 2016,” the finance minister said.
He added: “The current deficit decreased from 13 per cent in 2013 to 4.5 per cent in 2018 and we were planning to reach 2.5 per cent before the latest crisis.”
Bishara also discussed the impact of Israel’s ongoing occupation of the West Bank as a factor hampering financial progress, saying that “in order not to deceive ourselves, despite all the achievements, we are certain that we cannot achieve a prosperous economy and sustainable development due to the obstacles made by the Israeli occupation”.
He asked: “How can we achieve sustainable development while 64 per cent of Area C has become subject to developing Israeli settlements and given over to Israeli military use? How can we develop our infrastructure, housing and agriculture projects while we are deprived of our simplest right – water?”
Bishara concluded by asking “how can we develop the tourism sector while there are more than 700 Israeli military checkpoints scattered across the West Bank,” likely a thinly-veiled reference to revelations this weekend that the long-awaited “deal of the century” recommends developing tourism in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The deal proposes nearly a $1 billion to build up the Palestinian tourism sector, which has been labelled “a seemingly impractical notion” given Israel’s ongoing occupation of the West Bank and siege of the Gaza Strip.