UNRWA Report Questions the Blooming West Bank Economy

PNN – Palestine News Network 08.06.11 – 13:59

Jerusalem – PNN – The UN Relief and Works Agency released a report on Wednesday questioning the view that the Palestinian economy in the West Bank is flourishing. Contrary to media reports, the UNRWA report states that in the first half of 2010 the unemployment rate rose much more than the employment rate.

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According to the report, there was also a decrease in the purchasing power of the working class. This comes in the face of rising inflation on consumer product prices. The report noted as well that employment rates among the Palestinian refugees in the West Bank were worse than the non-refugee residents.

Researcher Salem Al-Ajluni, author of the report, said, “while there was a humble increase of employment, this growth minimized during 2010 as unemployment rates increased in the second half of the same year. The participation of Palestinian refugees in the working force continued to fall back, probably because of despair from finding new jobs which caused lower rates of employment among the refugees at that time.”

Al-Ajluni added, “there was a rise in the average unemployment rate among refugees that in the first half of 2010 reached 27.9 percent in comparison with 2009, while it was 24.9 percent for non-refugees.”

According to Al-Ajluni the working refugees and non-refugees have lost 30 percent of their actual earned salary.

Commenting on the report, Christopher Gunness, spokesperson for UNRWA, said, “the effects that come due to these results are deep for the Palestinian refugees that UNRWA serves.”

He added that, “the good economic news that came in the last few months in media reports ignored the deeper facts that are currently occurring. The work market for refugees in particular has declined. The occupation and its infrastructure, like settlements, settler roads that clearly violate the Palestinian lands and divide it, the settler violence and the wall in the west bank have worked to shrink the possibilities for the Palestinians in general and the refugees in particular. All of this caused higher rates of those who depend on aid among refugees and puts greater pressure on UNRWA.”

UNRWA serves 688,700 registered refugees in the West Bank divided among 19 refugee camps. According to Sami Mashasha, Arabic spokesperson for UNRWA, due to the high unemployment of refugees in the West Bank, families spend half their income on food, which leaves little for other necessities like housing and education. He added that this encourages the cycle of credit that helps to deepen poverty.

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