Shadowy figure uses cell phone (illustrative).
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
A World Bank report published Thursday estimates the Palestinian mobile sector lost more than $1 billion over the past three years, mostly as a result of restrictions by Israel.
“Restrictive measures have significantly affected the development of Palestinian telecommunications,” the report, entitled “Missed Opportunity for Economic Development,” said.
It said the measures include Israeli restrictions on the import of equipment for telecom and ICT companies, the inability to operate in more than 60% of the West Bank’s Area C (which is under Israeli control), and the requirement by Israel that Palestinian operators go through an Israeli-registered company to access international links.
“While international practices commend competition in the sector, the second Palestinian mobile operator, Wataniya, has not been able to start its operations in Gaza due to Israeli restrictions on accessing spectrum and importing material,” the report noted. “As a result, Gaza remains a mobile-monopoly market structure.”
The report also pointed out that the Palestinian operators remain at a competitive disadvantage because Israeli operators have 3G and 4G capabilities and are able to attract higher- value customers. “Unauthorized Israeli operators are capturing more than 20% of the West Bank market in volume,” it claimed.
The report showed the Palestinian Authority’s fiscal losses for the same period of three years are as high as $184 million, counting non-collected VAT alone, up to 3% of GDP.
“With unemployment rate at 26%, the Palestinian telecom sector has the potential to boost the economy and create job opportunities,” said Steen Lau Jorgensen, World Bank Country director for the West Bank and Gaza. “In order for that to happen, Palestinian operators should be able to access similar resources as their neighbors.”