Price hikes and import delays resulting from the ongoing war in Ukraine have delayed the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. The enclave has been under a strict Israeli siege since 2007, and the occupation state has inflicted a number of major military offensives on the people of Gaza, the latest of which was in May last year.
Reconstruction of the Gaza Strip has been an issue for years. Finding the funding for the estimated $400 million cost of reconstruction after the 2021 offensive alone remains a major problem.
According to Adam Khalil writing for Middle East Eye, a joint committee composed of the Palestinian Ministry of Housing and Public Works and the Palestinian Contractors' Union (PCU) is set to hold discussions with donors, to find a solution to the crisis. Under-secretary at the ministry, Naji Sarhan, told the London-based outlet that there had not yet been a "real start" to reconstruction, due to what he described as "restrictions" of the financing conditions.
"Sarhan estimated that only around five per cent of the necessary works had been completed," explained Khalil. "A number of factors have played into this: the delay in the delivery of reconstruction funds; the high prices of building materials globally and locally; and Egypt's decision to curtail exports to the Gaza Strip." The Gaza Crossings Authority confirmed that, "Cement imports from Egypt have declined by more than 70 per cent since 10 March."
Shawki Abu Salah is one of those contracted to work on reconstruction projects. He told Middle East Eye that he had been forced to halt construction due to high prices and the scarcity of building materials. "The current prices are completely different from the period of contracting to implementation of the projects, which incurs heavy losses," he said. More job losses are expected.
The war in Ukraine, he explained, has forced many countries, including Egypt, to impose restrictions on their export of building materials. These "insane" price rises are putting the viability of Abu Salah's business at risk. Warning of problems continuing into the future, he added that Gaza imports most of its iron needs from Russia and Ukraine, while it mainly depends on Egypt, and other sources, to provide other construction materials.
Contractors expect a "real catastrophe" if their sector collapses, one which will affect all aspects of life in Gaza.