Palestinian electricians repair electric cables..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In a first step toward clearing the Palestinian Authority’s NIS 2 billion electricity debt, the PA has transferred more than half a billion shekels to the Israel Electric Company, the firm announced on Wednesday.
The PA sent NIS 590 million to the company on Sunday, and the outstanding balance is expected to be paid according to a timeline determined in a principle agreement on September 13, the firm reported to the Israel Securities Authority and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.
As per the deal, the PA agreed to convey this initial lump sum, completing the remaining payments in a series of 48 installments, reduced by the elimination of interest rates. For its part, Israel would transfer to the PA some NIS 1.14b. it had withheld for health and other benefits pending assurances from the Palestinians that the money would be used specifically for those services.
In addition to focusing on the existing debts, the September agreement also established that the PA would now be responsible for overseeing the commercial and operational administration of the Palestinian electricity sector, giving the PA autonomy over electricity distribution for the first time. For this purpose, the agreement called for the creation of a Palestinian body to acquire electricity exclusively from the IEC and take full responsibility for the electricity bills of Palestinian residents.
The principle agreement was signed by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, Finance Ministry director-general Shai Babad and the Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein Sheikh.
Yiftah Ron-Tal, chairman of the IEC, called this week’s initial transfer of funds “a great achievement” for the company’s customers.
“After years of negotiations and contacts, which also included judicial proceedings and a debt that weighed on the financial condition of the IEC, an agreement was reached to regulate the entire debt,” Ron-Tal said on Wednesday. “The transfer of the first payment of about NIS 600m. constitutes a significant and dramatic achievement of standing by the determined conditions.”
The creation of the first ever Palestinian electric company, was welcomed by the international community, particularly by the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee, which met in New York last month to discuss donor contributions to the PA.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the the UN's Security Council last month, "Such steps, echoing the intentions of Oslo, are critical to the viability of a future Palestinian state."
Tovah Lazaroff and Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.