UN bemoans unsustainable Palestinian economy

A Palestinian protestor covers his nose with a piece of cloth on the beach near the maritime border with Israel (background), in the northern Gaza Strip, during a demonstration calling for the lift of the Israeli blockade on the coastal Palestinian enclave, on September 10, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 12 September 2018
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UN bemoans unsustainable Palestinian economy

  • It said unemployment in the Palestinian territories was the highest in the world in 2017, at 27.4 percent
  • Half of Palestinians under 30 were unemployed. The economy grew 3.1 percent but was flat on a per capita basis

GENEVA: Palestinian citizens are trapped in an economy of jobless growth with no prospects, especially in Gaza, which is undergoing “de-development,” the United Nations trade and development agency UNCTAD said in an annual report published on Wednesday.
It said unemployment in the Palestinian territories was the highest in the world in 2017, at 27.4 percent, while agricultural production fell by 11 percent. Half of Palestinians under 30 were unemployed. The economy grew 3.1 percent but was flat on a per capita basis.
“Every year the situation becomes more and more unacceptable and difficult,” UNCTAD Deputy Secretary-General Isabelle Durant told a news conference in Geneva, describing the economic situation as “absolutely unsustainable.”
A customs union between Israel and the Palestinian territories has isolated the Palestinian economy from the rest of the world and left it dependent on Israel, the report said.
“The major reason for this dark situation from the economic development point of view is a set of Israeli restrictions,” Mahmoud Elkhafif, coordinator of the report, said.
“These measures include permit systems for Palestinians to work in Israel, you have road blocks in the West Bank, you have earth mounds, trenches, road check points, gates and separation barriers.”
In Gaza, where real incomes have fallen 30 percent since 1999 and production capacity has been hit by successive military operations, households got an average of two hours of electricity daily, and only about 10 percent had drinking water.
“It is de-development, it is not development,” Elkhafif said.
Hamas, an Islamist movement designated a terrorist group by Western countries and Israel, seized control of the territory in 2007 following a brief civil war with forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas, the Western-backed Palestinian president based in the West Bank.
Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005, but, citing security concerns, maintains tight control of its land and sea borders. Egypt also restricts movement in and out of Gaza on its border.
Abbas’s Palestinian Authority has also sought to use financial measures to isolate Hamas, last year slashing the salaries of thousands of government workers in Gaza by 30 percent.
Total international support dropped significantly, from $2 billion in 2008 to $720 million in 2017.
A further blow came this month when US President Donald Trump halted funding for the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA, leaving a $200 million gap.
Durant said it was too early to assess the impact of the US move, and she hoped European or other donors might at least partially make up the shortfall.


Camel dung fuels cement production in northern UAE

Updated 13 min 29 sec ago
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Camel dung fuels cement production in northern UAE

  • Farmers in the emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah drop off camel excrement at collection stations

RAS AL-KHAIMAH: Thousands of tons of camel dung are being used to fuel cement production in the northern United Arab Emirates, cutting emissions and keeping animal waste out of landfill.
Under a government-run scheme, farmers in the emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah drop off camel excrement at collection stations. It is then blended with coal to power the boiler at a large cement factory.
“People started to laugh, believe me,” said the general manager of Gulf Cement Company, Mohamed Ahmed Ali Ebrahim, describing the moment the waste management agency proposed the idea.
But after running tests, the company found two tons of camel waste could replace one ton of coal.
“We heard from our grandfathers that they used cow dung for heating. But nobody had thought about the camel waste itself,” said Ebrahim, whose factory now uses 50 tons of camel dung a day.
Cow dung has been tapped as a resource to generate energy from the United States, to Zimbabwe to China. Camel dung is a rarer fuel but one well suited to Ras Al-Khaimah, one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE, home to around 9,000 camels used in milk production, racing and beauty contests.
Each camel produces some 8kg of faeces daily — far more than farmers use as fertilizer.
A blend of one part dung to nine parts coal burns steadily — essential for cement ovens that work continuously at up to 1,400 degrees Celsius.
The main aim of the project is to prevent camel waste from ending up in the dump, with the government seeking to divert 75% of all waste from landfill by 2021.
“We don’t make use of it. The most important thing is for the area to be clean, for the camels to be clean,” said farm owner Ahmed Al-Khatri, stroking camel calves in the afternoon sun as a farm worker sifted dung for collection.
Authorities want more cement plants to adopt the practice and start using chicken and industrial waste, as well as sludge from water treatment, said Sonia Ytaurte Nasser, executive director of the waste management agency.
“Waste is just a resource in the wrong place,” she said.