Economists say they could be a Fatah tactic to weaken Hamas by creating a social crisis in Gaza
Gaza: A decision by the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) to impose pay cuts on its civil servants in the Gaza Strip sparked anger among the employees on Wednesday.
The PA says it has been forced into the move because its budget has been hit by falling foreign aid.
Among hundreds waiting outside a bank in Gaza City to withdraw their salaries was Jawdat Abu Ramadan, who works for a PA-run institute for the disabled and said he found his monthly paycheck of 4,700 shekels ($1,300, 1,200 euros, Dh4,725) had been shaved by 1,700 shekels.
After paying his bills he is left with “just 1,000 shekels” for himself and his three dependants until the end of the month, he told AFP.
Announcing the cutback on Tuesday evening, the PA said the move would be temporary.
The 70,000 PA employees in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip are in a bizarre position.
In 2007 the Islamist militant group seized power from the rival Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and ousted the Fatah-dominated PA.
Its staff lost their posts, but the PA kept them on its payroll nevertheless.
Hamas set up its own parallel administration with 50,000 staff, whose salaries the PA refuses to pay.
Abbas is regularly accused in the Gaza Strip of abandoning its two million Palestinians, who have been battered by successive wars with Israel and crushing poverty and have been under a rigorous Israeli blockade for 10 years.
The unemployment rate in the coastal territory is among the highest in the world, at 45 per cent.
The wage cuts will have an impact beyond the civil servants themselves, as their purchasing power, Abu Ramadan says, is “the backbone of the Gaza economy”.
“It’s a premeditated massacre,” says Aysha Abu Maghassib, who worked for the PA’s police.
A widowed mother of two, she says that after deductions only about 200 shekels is left from this month’s wages.
Ammar Al Njjar, 33, demanded that Abbas resign, while Nevin Abu Herbid said she saw “a crisis erupting”.
Hamas called the cuts “arbitrary, inhumane and irresponsible”.
Economist Omar Shaban says they could be a Fatah tactic to weaken Hamas, its bitter rival, by creating a social crisis in the strip.
But it has led Fatah members from Gaza to leave the party, with the east Gaza membership quitting as a group, and individuals from the central and west Gaza districts also resigning.