First Published: 2013-01-27

 

Palestinians adopt state symbols as they wrestle with budgetary blues

 

In wake of UN status upgrade, Palestinians are busy printing State of Palestine letterheads, stamps, but they have never been less able to pay bills.

 

Middle East Online

By Hossam Ezzedine – RAMALLAH (Palestinian Territories)

Long battle to move from concept to practice

In the wake of a UN status upgrade last year, the Palestinians are busy printing State of Palestine letterheads and stamps, but they have never been less able to pay their bills.

Last November 29, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas smiled broadly as the UN General Assembly took the historic vote that upgraded the Palestinians to non-member observer state, but the move has had costly consequences.

It was opposed by both the United States and Israel, with the latter opting to suspend its monthly transfers of tax and tariff revenue collected for the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the wake of the decision.

That has plunged the PA's finances -- shaky at the best of times -- into chaos, forcing prime minister Salam Fayyad to beg Arab nations to make up the shortfall by activating a "safety net" worth $100 million a month.

The money was intended to ensure the PA could continue to pay its thousands of employees' salaries, which make up a large part of the $240 million a month the government needs to stay on top of its obligations.

But the promised money has not been forthcoming. Last week, Saudi Arabia announced it would chip in $100 million (75 million euros) in a one-time donation, but other Arab countries have not come forward.

The situation has created tension on the ground. PA employees are still owed half their November salaries and all of their December pay.

On January 13, the Arab League announced it would dispatch a delegation headed by its secretary general Nabil al-Arabi and accompanied by Fayyad to try to drum up more of the promised "safety net" from Arab donors.

"When the Palestine Liberation Organisation announced that it would go ahead with seeking observer state status, the battle intensified with the United States and Arab donor aid to the PA declined," political analyst Abdelmajid Suleim said.

"The only explanation for the financial crisis is that the Palestinian people and its leaders are paying the price for disobedience to Washington," he added.

Economist Nasser Abdel Karim lays some of the blame on the Palestinian leadership, pointing out that financial sanctions from Israel and Washington had been expected after the UN bid.

"The Palestinian government expected economic difficulties due to the decision to go to the UN, but it did nothing to prepare," he said.

Despite the budgetary blues, Abbas this month gave orders for work to begin on new passports, ID cards and driving licences reading "State of Palestine."

Deputy interior minister Hassan Alawi said that there were practical barriers to putting such orders into practice.

"We're still under occupation," he said. "We have the ability to deliver a Palestinian passport, but the Israeli side will not accept their use."

The PA is also taking the battle to its foreign representations, with foreign minister Riad al-Malki saying that all official correspondence will now carry a "State of Palestine" letterhead.

And telecommunications minister Safaa Nasreddine announced the launching of the first "State of Palestine" stamp, which will be distributed to Palestinian embassies and representative offices.

In a statement, Nasreddine predicted "a long battle with the Israeli side to translate into reality Palestine's upgrade to the rank of state at the UN."

The first State of Palestine stamps will be printed in Bahrain, but similar ones for local use are not expected in the short term, the minister said.

"Israeli permission is unfortunately necessary, before and after their printing," she said.

 

UN envoy in Moscow to save Syrian truce

UN envoy seeks to restart Yemen peace talks

Iraq reform process in limbo after Green Zone storming

US soldier feared killed in Iraq’s Kurdistan

Saudi Minister 'not satisfied' with level of female employment

OPCW warns ISIS may be making chemical weapons

French court says 'Carlos the Jackal' must face trial for 1974 attack

UN demands protection of hospitals in armed conflicts

Jewish settler who led burning alive of Palestinian teen receives life sentence

Italy ready to raise shipwreck off Libya coast

Heavy airstrikes kill dozens in ISIS Syria bastion

Deadly intra-rebel clashes rock eastern part of Syria capital

German 'jihadist' goes on trial for Syria war crimes

Number of people held in solitary confinement doubles in Israel

UN fears operation near Mosul will displace 30,000 more Iraqis

Turkey Nobel Laureate shows solidarity with veteran writer, Murat Belge

Russian FM hopes for Aleppo ceasefire in 'next few hours'

Israel Labour mulls break with British party over anti-Semitism claims

Saudi to ensure Binladin Group resolves wage issues

Tens of thousands of Shiite pilgrims flock to Baghdad shrine

EU set to grant Turkey visa-free travel in migrant deal

Syria rebels strike hospital in regime-held Aleppo

Israel destroys home of Palestinian suspect's family

Saudi women to get copy of marriage contracts

EU praises Turkey efforts to meet criteria for visa deal

Sudan claims 'sovereign rights' in dispute with Egypt

Amnesty denounces ‘shocking’ conditions in Iraq detention centre

Carnage in Iraq as deadly car bomb targets Shiite pilgrims

PKK attack kills at least one soldier in southeast Turkey

Turkey pounds ISIS positions in Syria

Five years on, bin Laden doctor languishes in jail

Top Sudan court lifts ban on leading newspaper

Iran to grant citizenship to families of killed foreign recruits

Egypt journalists hold sit-in after police raid of press syndicate

US in desperate bid to salvage Syria ceasefire

Iraq protesters quit Green Zone after unprecedented breach

Up to 100 people missing in two Mediterranean shipwrecks

Aden police chief survives new assassination attempt

ISIS claims rare deadly bombings in southern Iraq

Tight security marks world rallies to celebrate Labour Day

Yemen government suspends 'direct' talks with rebels

Russia, US in bids to freeze fighting in Syria's Aleppo

Deadly car bomb hits Turkey refugee hub near Syria border

Iraq PM calls for punishment of protesters involved in violence

Yemen government forces seize Qaeda training camp