[Homestead] PLO a dying carcass

Tvoivozhd tvoivozd at infionline.net
Fri Sep 17 13:06:07 EDT 2004

Hell of a good idea to put it out of its misery---the only thing it 
contributed was suicide bombing---naturally by stupid brainwashed 
religious nuts seeking Valhalla---not by a single member of the Islam 
church hierarchy who have no desire to risk their precious bodies, only 
those of their idiot audience..

	The Christian Science Monitor - csmonitor.com 

from the September 14, 2004 edition - 

    At 10th anniversary, a far poorer Palestinian Authority

*The four-year intifada has left the Palestinian economy - and 
government - in shambles.*

*By Ilene R. Prusher 
| Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

*JERICHO, WEST BANK* - When the doors of the Intercontinental Hotel 
opened here four summers ago, rooms were sold out and the managers had 
to turn people away. Today, it does not have a single guest and is kept 
running by a handful of people who watch the minutes tick by in crushing 

"When it's empty like this, every hour feels like a year," moans desk 
manager Jawdat Barakat, who earns a fourth of what he did in the days 
when the hotel was bustling. Many clients spilled in from the Oasis 
Casino next door - a joint Israeli-Palestinian investment which has 
since been shuttered. When the hotel opened, it employed 184 
Palestinians. Only about 25 work here now.

Tourism was once the most promising sector of the Palestinian economy. 
Now business in Jericho, which bills itself as the oldest city in the 
world, has itself become fossilized.

Jericho's empty streets are a mirror of the downward spiral across the 
West Bank and Gaza Strip. Ten years ago this week, Palestinian leader 
Yasser Arafat gained major civilian powers for the first time as part of 
the Oslo Peace Accords. The Palestinian Authority (PA) soon gained the 
power to collect taxes, and run health, welfare, and tourism facilities, 
taking on the trappings of state- hood. Jericho was the first city from 
which Israeli forces withdrew, and, some say, the most keen to do 
business with Israelis.

But since the start of the intifada in late September 2000, the economy 
has been caught in a vicious cycle. In response to suicide bombings, 
Israel closed its borders to Palestinian workers, reoccupied cities it 
had turned over to the PA, and clamped down on Palestinian travel 
between cities. The latter, say people whose income was dependent on the 
tourism industry, is the primary reason why Jericho's economy is now 
virtually bust.

Most indicators point to a worsening of economic conditions - and an 
ever-rougher road for the PA leadership to survive its worst political 
crisis. Yet, while prominent Palestinians have become increasingly 
critical of life under the PA, decrying it as "lawless" and "chaotic," 
it continues to function as a de facto government - and the largest 
single employer in the Palestinian economy.

"The PA has managed to pay salaries ... that's the only symbol that it's 
still functioning," says Mohammed Shtayyeh, the director of the 
Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction (PECDAR) 
in Ramallah.

The Intercontinental in Jericho wasn't alone in making huge layoffs. 
Approximately 90,000 people who were working in the Palestinian private 
sector before the intifada have since lost their jobs. But the loss of 
wages earned in Israel has hurt the most. Some 166,000 Palestinians used 
to work in Israel before the intifada, compared to 2,411 who do now, 
according to PECDAR, which was founded as the economic organ of the PA 
and is still the conduit for disbursing international donor funds. The 
salaries of those who worked in Israel brought up to $1 billion a year 
in remittances into the Palestinian economy.

Now the World Bank puts Palestinian unemployment at 28 percent - PECDAR 
says it's more than 50 percent. Per capita income, which in 2000 was 
about $2,000 a year for the West Bank and $1,600 for the Gaza Strip, has 
dropped to $950 and $650 respectively, PECDAR says. This year, for the 
first time, half of the Palestinian population will be considered to be 
living in poverty, according the World Bank's most recent study.

With fewer and fewer people working in the private sector, Dr. Shtayyeh 
estimates that about one-third of the Palestinian public is dependent on 
a PA salary. Tax collection - a key source of revenue for any government 
- was spotty to begin with and has plummeted since the intifada. The PA 
is able to function only through the help of donor funds.

It's not an encouraging trend. Ten years since the PA's founding, it is 
more dependent on foreign aid, but having a harder time getting it. For 
example, of the $650 million in aid the PA relies on to pay salaries 
this year, it has received only $140 million so far. "We are back to the 
scenario we had 10 years ago," Shtayyeh complains.

Now, in the course of a month, the PA needs $61 million to pay salaries 
and another $34 million in operating expenses, totaling $95 million. Of 
that, he says, $17 million comes from tax collection, and another $25 in 
the form of consumer and value-added taxes that Israel collects on goods 
coming into the country and then returns to the PA.

The difference has generally been made up by donor countries: about $10 
million from the European countries and the rest from Arab countries, 
particularly Saudi Arabia. Of $1 billion the PA received in 2003, 80 
percent came from Arab countries. But the conflict with Israel, combined 
with Mr. Arafat's increasingly troubled image on the international 
stage, is making support to the Palestinians a more difficult sell to 
donors. While there have been years since the post-Oslo Accords when 
Japan gave $200 million to the Palestinian Authority, last year it only 
gave $16 million.

*Less money from abroad*

"There has been a sharp decline in donations, because of the closure and 
destruction," adds Shtayyeh. "Iraq has been hijacking the attention of 
other donors. The donors ask us, 'can you guarantee that the project we 
build will not be destroyed?' We cannot answer that."

But nor has the PA been able to answer to ongoing complaints of 
corruption and mismanagement. In a recent speech, Arafat acknowledged 
that his Authority had mistakes and that reforms were necessary, but 
critics say he has not acted.

"The Palestinian Authority, to a large extent, has failed to manage the 
Palestinian economy as effectively and efficiently as it should have," 
says Dr. Nasser Abdelkarim, an economist at Bir Zeit University. "The 
Authority has never made available any development plan since its 
existence. We've only engaged in emergency planning and crisis 
management. The PA made mistakes by granting exclusive licenses for 
things like telecommunications - and in this they created an unfavorable 
environment for the expansion of growth in the private sector."

As he speaks in the lobby of another nearly empty hotel, this one in 
Ramallah, he notices a prominent former minister of Post and 
Communications, Imad Faluji, sitting behind him. "Let him hear it," 
Abdelkarim says loudly, referring to the complaints of corruption. 
"They're all part of what built this problem."

The Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qureia, threatened to resign this 
summer, protesting the growing state of "chaos" in the PA. Across the 
territories, tensions have been building. In Gaza in July, thuggish 
young renegades of Arafat's Fatah faction of the Palestinian Liberation 
Organization (PLO) abducted and beat his police chief, Ghazi Jabali, and 
continued the wreak havoc after Arafat appointed his nephew, who was 
widely rejected. Prominent Palestinian legislative council member Nabil 
Amr - a cabinet minister until last year - was shot in his own home in 
Ramallah, only an hour after he appeared in a television interview in 
which he was highly critical of Arafat. This strife, which largely has 
taken place inside Arafat's Fatah faction, is closely linked to the 
worsening financial squeeze, say some Palestinians and outside officials.

*PA infighting*

Since the World Bank and donor countries have put increasing pressure on 
the Palestinian leadership to institute a system of direct deposits, 
less donor money has been accessible to Fatah.

"Much of the tensions we're seeing are caused by financial stress," says 
a Western diplomat in Jerusalem.

Walid Masri remembers the first day he saw the Palestinian police stream 
through the dusty streets of Jericho, past the refugee camp where he 
spent his childhood. "When the Palestinian police first came, we felt a 
kind of safety and security. We could go out at night," he recalls.

Now, a decade later, he thinks of himself as someone who doesn't live 
under any government at all. "There is no functioning authority now. The 
Israelis come in and out when they want someone. Everything has come to 
a halt," says Mr. Masri, a waiter at the Mount of Temptation restaurant 
and tourist stop in Jericho. Masri, a father of five, has had almost no 
work since the intifada started. A place that once bustled with 
Christian pilgrims, the restaurant and gift shops only reopened a few 
months ago. It remains eerily empty, part of a minimall tucked into a 
hillside below the cable cars meant to carry visitors to the mount where 
Jesus was tempted.

Masri's boss, Maha Abdelrazak, says she and her husband opened up again 
after a four-year hiatus. But they only receive one or two buses a day, 
compared to the 30 to 50 they used to get at the height of the tourist 
season, pre-intifada.

"We wish we had saved some of the money from those days. But we just put 
everything we earned back to into the restaurant and kept expanding. We 
never thought they would close the doors on tourists," says Mrs. 
Abdelrazak, a woman with an warm smile. The restaurant, even at lunch 
time in summer tourist season, has nary a customer. Only when a bus 
rolls in, she says, do they flick on the lights - turned off to save on 
energy bills.

The PA has not tried to collect taxes from them at least four years, and 
there are not many services she can point to that she receives from the 
government. Yet she wishes everyone were a bit more patient. "People 
want magic to happen. People think that as soon as the PA is in place, 
all their problems should be solved," she says. "But no one's perfect. 
Ten years is not a long time for a country, for a government to give the 
people what they want."

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