GAZA CITY: Livestock traders in Gaza are frustrated by the reluctance of Palestinians to buy sacrificial livestock for Eid Al-Adha because of the deteriorating economic situation. Many locals lack purchasing power due to the Israeli siege and a wage crisis.
Traders and customers blamed the stagnant market on unprecedented levels of poverty.
In order to encourage people to buy, livestock owners have resorted to a system of sale by installments. Others are skeptical of this system, fearing the inability of some to pay, especially in light of the financial crisis experienced by Palestinian Authority (PA) employees.
Mohammed Khadr and five friends agreed to join together and buy a sacrificial calf by payments in monthly installments.
Khadr, a 53-year-old taxi driver, said he would not have been able to buy it without the installment system. He said he and his friends have agreed to buy a calf in installments of 1,800 shekels ($510) per person over nine months.
Khadr said that he used to always buy the Eid sacrifice outright, but he would not have bought it for the past three years without help from the installment system.
Despite the system, Mohammed Al-Assar said he would not buy a sacrifice for the third year in a row because of the salary crisis.
“I have used the Eid sacrifice for a decade. We had income, but now with the big deduction on salaries, I have not been able to buy a sacrifice over the past two years,” said Al-Assar, a PA employee.
He said that the salary drop caused a deterioration in the living conditions of thousands of PA employees in Gaza. He added that some of them are barely able to provide basic necessities, while many are exhausted by debts and loans.
Since April 2017, the PA has imposed financial cuts on the salaries of more than 50,000 employees in the Gaza Strip, ranging from 30 to 50 percent per capita.
“The majority of those who buy the sacrifices this year are friends and acquaintances, according to the financial installment system,” said Abu Karim Al-Satari, a livestock merchant who owns a farm in the southern Gaza Strip.
He added that the low demand for sacrifices comes despite a decline in prices compared with previous years. This, he said, is due to the deteriorating economic conditions of the majority of the population.
According to Al-Satari, the average price ranges from 16 to 20 shekels per kg.
The Israeli siege and internal Palestinian political divisions have caused a collapse in the living conditions of about 2 million Palestinians, most of whom depend on humanitarian assistance provided by the UN.
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, about 53 percent of the population of the Gaza Strip are impoverished.
Cattle merchant Aziz Afanah agrees with Al-Satari that “the livestock market for this year is witnessing a marked decline in the demand to buy sacrifices due to a lack of cash and purchasing power of the majority of Gazans.”
But Afanah, despite the sharp recession in the livestock market, refuses to sell in installments to avoid problems of inability to pay.
“Selling by installments needs guarantees, and in Gaza there is no guarantee after the majority of people entered the cycle of financial crisis,” he said.