Palestinian Authority cuts back wages to civil servants over cash crunch
Iran Press TV
Sun Mar 10, 2019 06:56PM
The Palestinian Authority is scaling back the monthly payroll of the Palestinian civil servants, as a result of a cash crunch exacerbated by the Israeli regime's recent decision to cut about five percent of the tax handovers to the West Bank-based administration over its financial support for jailed resistance fighters.
Speaking at a news conference in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday, Palestinian Finance Minister Shukri Bishara said the Palestinian Authority will be paying only half of the wages paid to its employees for the month of February.
He noted that Palestinian civil servants whose salaries are below 2,000 shekels ($550) will receive a full salary for the month, while the rest of the employees will receive 50 percent of their monthly salary for February.
Civil servants earning more than that, including cabinet ministers, will have their wages cut by half, Bishara said.
However, he underlined that prisoners' families will continue to be paid their full allocations. "No force on earth can alter that," the Palestinian minister stated.
Bishara said the Palestinian Authority will have to take bank loans of between $50 million to $60 million for the coming five to six months to overcome the crisis.
In mid-February, Israel's cabinet froze about $138 million from within the taxes collected for the Palestinian Authority, stating that the Abbas administration paid the same amount in prisoner stipends in 2018.
"Abu Mazen (Abbas) continues each month to transfer fat salaries to those who are in prison," Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked told Israel's Hebrew-language Reshet 13 television network. "We must find a way of stopping this money."
Palestinian authorities condemned the Israeli decision as "piracy."
"It is an attempt to pressure us and blackmail us," Wasel Abu Youssef, a senior official with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), commented then.
"Even if left with just one dollar, we will pay it to the families of the martyrs, of the prisoners and of the wounded," he said.
Abbas said the Palestinian Authority would not accept any of the tax revenues, which totaled 700 million shekels ($193 million) in January and account for about half of the authority's budget.
Israel collects funds from imports that reach the occupied West Bank and run the Gaza Strip via Israeli ports, in addition to other taxes, and forwards a large sum of it to the Palestinian Authority, after deduction of payments for water and electricity.
The Palestinian Authority is facing steep aid cuts. US President Donald Trump's administration has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars to humanitarian organizations, including $360 million it used to give to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), in a bid to pressure the Palestinians to re-enter so-called peace talks with Israel that collapsed in 2014.
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