MIRAGE OR MIRACLE? Why West Bank’s high life should be a cause for concern…
Government spending and living on credit at all levels of Palestinian society is rampant and, as the euro zone crisis has shown, may prove to be the economy's undoing.
July 7, 2012 5:40 by Reuters
Beyond occupied land and limited water, even the air waves in the West Bank offer no safe outlet for economic growth.
Israeli authorities deny the Palestinian Authority and therefore Palestinian mobile phone providers access to the high-tech 3G frequency, while granting it even to Jewish settlements.
Sam Bahour, a telecoms entrepreneur-turned-business consultant, said any potential for a high-tech industry had been stymied by that move.
“Israel is in total control of the assets that could make for a real economy, and we’ve been left to manage the crumbs,” he said. “It’s a donor-driven economy and will remain one until the occupation ends.”
International organisations and the public sector concentrate in Ramallah, where 75,000 people live, pulling jobs and wealth from the rest of the West Bank into its orbit and leaving other towns and cities in its shadow.
Poverty and joblessness have increased in the West Bank in 2012, both hovering at around a fifth of the population of 2.6 million.
“The government focuses on growth regardless of how it is achieved so that it will get some compliments abroad,” Nasser Abdul Kareem, an economic analyst, told Reuters.
“Unfortunately, too much of it depends on government spending, which is neutral, and doesn’t distribute wealth among people and geography,” he said.
As division festers between the Gaza Strip, which is run by Hamas Islamists, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s dominant Fatah party in the West Bank, wealth disparities and the preoccupation with making ends meet are breeding alienation among a people already in no short supply of it.
“Indebtedness and financial problems are taking a toll on society, and making people ‘Americanised’ in a way,” noted Bahour, the consultant.
“The focus on the individual and his ownership is increasing, and the sense of community and the collective fades.”