Fayyad Appeals for Assistance from Arab Countries

RAMALLAH, May 11, 2011 (WAFA) – Prime Minister Salam Fayyad Wednesday appealed to the Arab countries to help the Palestinian Authority (PA) and people overcome their financial difficulty made worse when Israel decided this month not to transfer more than $100 million in tax revenues it collects on PA behalf.

Speaking to reporters at his Ramallah office, Fayyad said that Arab aid declined from over $450 million in 2008 to less than half this amount in the next year and year after. So far this year, he said, Arab aid stood at only $52 million.

“Our message to the Arab countries is to stand by the Palestinian people and provide them with the assistance they badly need,” he said.

He said the PA needs immediate assistance amounting to $970 million to help it pay overdue salaries for over 150,000 public employees as well as cover the deficit that has accumulated since 2010 when donor aid failed to meet the PA’s financial requirements.

He said the PA’s outstanding debt until April has reached almost $900 million, including debt to banks and to pay back foreign assistance loans. He said the budget deficit increase by $30 million every month.

The PA pays a total of 745 million Israeli shekels ($220 million) every month for salaries as well as assistance to the most impoverished families.

He stressed that the PA is not going to pay salaries, in spite of the public outcry, unless it is able to pay everyone.

So far, he said, the situation regarding Israel’s release of withheld money has not changed since last week as international pressure on Israel has not yet yielded results.

Fayyad said he does not object to taking the matter to the United Nations Security Council to get a resolution forcing Israel to pay the money and not to repeat this matter again.

The executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization said after its meeting Wednesday that it will continue to work with the Palestinian government to increase international pressure on Israel to release the money.

It said it would go as far as asking the Security Council “to intervene against Israel’s collective punishment policy and violation of international law.”

Asked about the upcoming municipal elections scheduled for July 9 whether it will be postponed or not since now there is reconciliation between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Fayyad said that he favors holding elections in both regions on the same day and this is something he had recommended to the PLO’s executive committee.

Elections was originally set in February for both places, but when Hamas said it will not allow it in the Gaza Strip, which it controls since June 2007, it was decided to hold it in the West Bank until time comes when it would be possible to hold it in the Gaza Strip as well.

The Central Elections Commission (CEC) proceeded with steps to hold election in the West Bank and is already half way there. However, and in spite of the reconciliation, the CEC will not be able to hold elections in Gaza by July 9 as it needs more time to prepare voter registration and other steps which need at least three months of preparation.

Fayyad expected the PLO’s executive Committee to make that decision in its Wednesday meeting, but its final statement did not mention the local elections.

(english.wafa.ps / 11.05.2011)

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