Palestinians demand salaries as sanctions bite

Cash shortfall in PA worsens after Israel's sanctions following West Bank government's successful UN bid

Palestinians protest in Ramallah 370 (photo credit: Michael Omer-Man)
Palestinians protest in Ramallah 370
(photo credit: Michael Omer-Man)
Hundreds of Palestinian government workers protested outside their prime minister's office on Tuesday saying they had not received a full salary in almost three months amid a deepening financial crisis.
A cash shortfall in the Palestinian Authority worsened after Israel imposed sanctions following the West Bank government's successful bid to gain de-facto recognition of Palestine as a state at the UN General Assembly in November.
The demonstration in downtown Ramallah was the latest in a series of sporadically violent protests over cuts and tough austerity measures in the West Bank.
"How can the world agree to this policy of collective punishment when our only crime was heading to the United Nations," said the head of Government Employees' Union, Bassam Zakarneh, at the protest.
"Our government did not plan for this rainy day, and we think that it has not found any way to deal with this crisis."
Deprived of potentially lucrative land and infrastructure by Israeli restrictions and Jewish settlements, the West Bank's economy depends on foreign aid.
But from a high of $1.8 billion in 2008, foreign aid plummeted to around $600 million last year, according to the Palestinian Monetary Authority.
Despite the shortfalls, hiring has continued to rise in the Palestinian Authority's swollen public sector, and efforts to improve tax and utility bill collections have only increased the public anger.
Anti-austerity protests in September descended into violent clashes with police and calls for the downfall of the government. Israeli officials have said a third Palestinian Intifada may be in the offing.