Despite an international aid boycott, the Hamas-led government is projecting the largest-ever budget for 2007, the acting finance minister said over the weekend, reflecting the growing public payroll.
The official, Samir Abu Aisheh, said the budget would amount to $2.56 billion, an increase of about $500 million from 2006, counting on international aid to keep the deficit to 40 or 50 percent.
Israel, the US and the European Union cut off funding after Hamas took office in March 2006, charging that the Islamic group is a terrorist organization. Instead, aid has been funneled through the office of Chairman Mahmoud Abbas or directed to specific projects.
"We think the countries that are offering indirect assistance, which doesn't go through the government, will continue to do so, with reasonable amounts like in 2006," he said. He also hoped for an end to the aid boycott, which has caused widespread hardships in the West Bank and Gaza.
Abu Aisheh said 25,000 workers have been added to public sector payroll, making the budget increase necessary.