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UN report highlights bleak reality for Palestinian economy

The occupied Palestinian territories last year witnessed deteriorating humanitarian conditions, decreasing donor support and the continuation of restrictive measures imposed under Israeli occupation, according to a UN report published on Tuesday.
The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report paints a bleak picture of the Palestinian economy.
It highlights “restrictions on the movement of people and goods; systematic erosion and destruction of the productive base; losses of land, water and other natural resources” as some of the main factors hindering the economy.
Other factors, according to the report, are the separation of the Palestinian market from global markets, asymmetric economic relations that continue to deepen economic dependence on Israel, annexation of land in the West Bank and the blockade on Gaza.
“Despite a 4.1 percent growth in gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016, the productive capacity of the Palestinian economy continued to erode, economic performance was far below potential and unemployment persisted at levels rarely seen around the world since the Great Depression,” the report notes.
This assessment echoes a July report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that said: “The Palestinian economy suffers from rising political uncertainty, declining aid flows, and insufficient investment. Restrictions on the movement of goods and services continue to hamper productive investment and growth.”
The UNCTAD report notes that Israel has intensified settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories.
“The settler population has more than doubled since the Oslo Accords in 1993 and 1995, and currently stands at between 600,000 and 750,000,” the report says.
“One of the harshest consequences of occupation is an unemployment rate that is persistently among the highest in the world. In 2016, unemployment remained extremely high, at 18 percent in the West Bank, 42 percent in Gaza and 27 percent in the Occupied Palestinian Territory; more than twice the regional average.”
The report notes that Gaza’s population of 2 million lacks access to basic services such as electricity, food and health care.

Given current trends, Gaza will become “unliveable” by 2020, according to a UN report published last month.

Dr. Naser Al-Tamimi

“Today, 80 percent of Gaza’s population receive food assistance and other forms of social transfers, half of the population is food insecure and only 10 percent have access to an improved water supply,” UNCTAD warns.
“Gaza’s electricity crisis means that power was not available for up to 20 hours per day in early 2017. This cripples all economic activities and the delivery of vital services, especially health services, water supply and sewage treatment.”
Last month, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, visiting Gaza for the first time since taking office on Jan. 1, described the situation there as “one of the most dramatic humanitarian crises that I have seen in many years working as a humanitarian in the United Nations.”
Given current trends, Gaza will become “unliveable” by 2020, according to a UN report published last month.
The UNCTAD report reveals a 38 percent drop in donor support between 2014 and 2016, “due in part to the fact that occupation prevents previous aid flows from translating into tangible development gains.”
This year “marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem; the longest occupation in recent history,” the report says.
“For the Palestinian people, these were five decades of de-development, suppressed human potential and denial of the basic human right to development, with no end in sight.”
• Dr. Naser Al-Tamimi is a UK-based Middle East researcher, political analyst and commentator with interests in energy politics and Gulf-Asia relations. Al-Tamimi is author of the book “China-Saudi Arabia Relations, 1990-2012: Marriage of Convenience or Strategic Alliance?” He can be reached on Twitter @nasertamimi and e-mail: [email protected]