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PA has paid almost 25 billion shekels to Gaza civil servants for not working, due to PA-Hamas feud

Headline: “Abu Shahla talks about the financial crisis, early retirement, and Gaza employees”

"Interview with Minister of Labor [in the national consensus government] Ma'moun Abu Shahla who spoke to Ma’an about the government’s financial crisis:

Interview with Minister of Labor in the national consensus government Ma'moun Abu Shahla:
[Q:] 'From where will the salaries of the civil servants be paid, and what are the government’s plans for dealing with the financial crisis?'
[Minister of Labor in the national consensus government Ma'moun Abu Shahla:] 'The international aid does not exceed 20 percent, and the rest is taxes which the government obtains from citizens on the West Bank, in addition to VAT and import taxes which it receives from Israel, and sometimes it [Israel] does not pay them, and considers them a means of leverage.'
[Q]:  'Therefore, in recent years the government’s goals have been reduced to nothing but paying salaries, since staff is increasing, and we always turn to banks for loans and say that we are suffering from financial troubles, and cannot create any investment opportunities. The financial crisis grows month after month and year after year, and we understand what this means - economic pressure aimed at causing political concessions…'

[Q:] 'Recently, the debate about the decision or amendment to the early pension law to put 70,000 civil servants out to retirement has intensified, and some have pointed out that these employees are from the Gaza Strip. Can you update us about the situation?'
[Abu Shahla:] 'In the matter of civil servants who are the main part of government costs, due to awareness and the national sensitivity, there is no government official who considers stopping the salary of anyone working for the government, because he supports his family. In light of our precarious economy and disgraceful situation, their salaries are only enough to cover their basic needs, and someone who is different is not a patriot, or loyal, and is seeking a non-national agenda. Let me emphasize through the Ma’an agency: Nobody in the government is thinking of early retirement or of reducing the number of employees. However, the truth is that one of the ministers came to the meeting before last, and found that he has 28 employees over the age of 58, and that they have many years of experience, but they are not working, and he wanted to put them in retirement. Opinion was against this, and we do not want a piecemeal approach, but rather a rational evaluation of the matter.'

[Q:] 'Is there discrimination in this matter between Gaza and the West Bank?'
[Abu Shahla:] 'We clearly state that there are civil servants receiving a salary and not working in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, and more in the West Bank. Whoever was prevented from working in Gaza, there is no decision about this, and this person is outside the framework of the settlement. This person who stopped working due to a political decision, nobody imposes the burden or the responsibility on him. A hundred months have passed, and the government has paid them about 25 billion shekels, (i.e., 6.5 billion dollars) and did not keep back one cent, and this is a national matter that cannot be touched. Therefore we state that there is no decision to obligate anyone to take early retirement, and if there is a decision, it will only be by choice. As for what has been said in the media, there is no basis…'

[Q:] 'Regarding employees in Gaza appointed after the rift [between Fatah and Hamas] – where are they on this issue?'

[Abu Shahla:] 'What delayed the solution of the Gaza government employee problem are political power struggles, and the momentum of the Al-Shati agreement (i.e., the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement signed on April 23, 2014) was not enough to end eight years of rift and its psychological impact, as there is a lack of trust between the different political forces, which has created a kind of gap and distrust on the other side. Therefore, there is a delay in solving this problem, which has a number of aspects:

1. They work in order to support their families, and it is their right that their government, whatever it may be, will bear the responsibility for their salaries, and no one in the government is against this.
2. In order to resolve their problem, there is a need for much money, estimated at 15 billion shekels.
3. There is a discrepancy in the number of these people, despite the fact that the administration in Gaza required the real number in case they unite the government establishments, and they are not a surplus for the government establishment.

We suggested summoning the civil servants who can work so they will sign and give a copy of their identity cards, and then we ran into a political problem with Hamas… even regarding the police. We said it is as if they are civil servants, and therefore their rights are the same as those of civil servants.
Here we will clarify that there are few who remained without salaries, and few who remained fit for work, and I want to summon them, and they are not enough for the administration of Gaza. Therefore, I need all the employees that Hamas appointed, and we emphasize that the delay in solving their problem is due to political power struggles, and lack of political will.'"

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