A new U.N. report finds the economy of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip
and West Bank has hit an all-time low. The report by the U.N. Conference
on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) says the economy of the occupied Palestinian
Territory faces unprecedented challenges.
The U.N. agency is marking the 25th anniversary of
its assistance program for the Palestinian people. The UNCTAD
coordinator of this program, Mahmoud Elkhafif, says this is not a happy
He notes the program was supposed to be dissolved when
the Palestinian question was resolved. This has not happened. In fact,
he says the Palestinian economy has never sunk so low.
average Palestinian in the West Bank and Gaza is getting two-thirds of
what he or she used to get in 1999 ... Unemployment touches almost
one-third of the Palestinian labor force in the [territories], 10
percent higher than its level in 1999. Also, the real wage has dropped
by 11 percent compared to the level in 1999," said Elkhafif.
report says nearly 60 percent of Palestinians live in poverty and the
trade deficit has reached an unprecedented 79 percent. It says the
trade deficit with Israel alone amounts to more than 140 percent of total
international donor support and accounts for more than 70 percent of
the overall trade deficit.
UNCTAD economists say the decline is
rooted in Israel's closure policy. They say an already dire situation
was made worse by Israel's military incursion into Gaza at the end of
last year in response to rocket and mortar attacks by Hamas and other
militant groups operating in the strip. The UNCTAD report says the
devastation of Gaza and its economy has plunged 1.5 million
Palestinians into unprecedented levels of poverty.
calls for a bold shift in the orientation of Palestinian economic
development. Elkhafif says Palestinians must lay the grounds for a
future viable state and build new institutions that would develop their
economy when a sovereign state emerges.
area that we are proposing for the international community and the
Palestinians is to consider Palestine, which is the case under the Paris
Protocol, as a simple custom territory," Elkhafif said. This would allow Palestine, or
the West Bank and Gaza, either the PLO or the Palestinian Authority ...
to join the WTO, either as observership status or a full membership
status," he continued.
Elkhafif says becoming part of
the World Trade Organization would make a significant and substantial
contribution toward Palestinian state building. He says it also would
put the Palestinian territory on an equal footing with Israel as well
as with any other trading partner.
He says about 90 percent of
Palestinian trade is with Israel. So, any dispute that erupts between
the two trading partners could be resolved in the WTO arena.