The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) strongly condemns the latest measures taken by the National Unity Government in Ramallah against the Gaza servants, including deductions for their salaries, amounting to 30% of their total salaries and exceeding 50% for employees with high rates and high salaries. PCHR is concerned that this will be a prelude to suspend completely their salaries and the government will abandon its legal obligations towards its servants, who committed to a prior presidential decision ordering them not to suspend from their work in mid-2007.
According to PCHR’s follow-up, on Tuesday, 04 April 2017, civil and military servants of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the Gaza Strip were surprised with large deduction from their salaries, ranging between 30% and 50% of their total salaries. These deductions also included servants, who are still on duty. This decision caused anger and indignation amidst the servants and their families. Dozens of them are afraid of a catastrophic deterioration in their living conditions because most of them are paying half of their salaries for bank loans, which they had to take.
On Tuesday, 04 April 2017, Spokesperson of the National Unity Government, Yousef Al-Mahmoud, justified his government’s policy that the deductions from servants’ salaries only affected allowances without prejudice to the basic salary. He attributed this policy to the financial crisis in occupied Palestine, decrease in the foreign aid, Israeli occupation and ongoing internal division, including the latest measures in the Gaza Strip such as establishing an administrative committee, which began to act as a parallel government, according to his words.
PCHR believes that the EU’s decision to stop funding for salaries is not new, as the EU informed the PA months ago about this. However, the PA did not take any action to face the consequences of the EU’s decision. This indicates absence of the professional and ethical responsibility towards finding real solutions to protect the servants and ensure continuing to pay their salaries. Shadi Othman, Communication Officer at EU in Jerusalem, announced in February that the EU adopted a new policy of financial aid to the PA in 2017. This policy aims at stopping to transfer 30 million Euros of the EU aid to the PA’s servants’ salaries in the Gaza Strip to the aid going to poor families, development and infrastructure projects, and creating jobs opportunities programs. The EU orientation came to implement the recommendations embedded in the 2013 report of the European Monitoring Committee, which refused that the EU pays the salaries of servants who do not work, so the EU transferred its funds to other sectors and not reducing them.
PCHR denounces the Government’s decision and considers it as a flagrant violation of the 2003 Amended Palestinian Basic Law, Civil Service Law and Law of Service in the Palestinian Security Forces No. 8 of 2005 and it amendments. PCHR stresses that not only the PA servants in the Gaza Strip should pay for the solution to the alleged financial crisis. However, according to the principle of equality and non-discrimination, all servants should be affected especially that the civil and military servants in Gaza did not take the decision to suspend from work themselves, but followed the Palestinian President’s orders not to head to the governmental offices. Moreover, PCHR is surprised that the Unity Government still hides information and decisions in this regard, particularly the EU’s decision to transfer the financial aid to the PA and to stop supporting the servants’ salaries item without affecting EU’s financial assistance to the PA’s budget. The justifications by the Unity Government’s Spokesperson were weird and reprehensible as the government was already aware of the EU’s decision months ago and did not take any action to prevent affecting the rights of civil and military servants, including their right to adequate living conditions, which would guarantee a decent life for them and their families, right to food, clothes and adequate housing, which would also protect them from diseases, poverty, disability and aging. Until this moment, the Palestinian Government did not declare any practical suggestions or alternatives to achieve job security. PCHR also believes that deduction from only the servants’ salaries in Gaza without affecting the servants in the West Bank violates the principle of equality and non-discrimination.
PCHR considers the justifications for the financial crisis announced by the Government’s spokesperson totally contradict with the official reports issued by the Ministry of Finance and Monetary Authority. These reports indicate a significant improvement in the financial performance, including a significant improvement in the PA’s revenues during the fourth quarter of last year comparing to a significant decline in the public expenditure during the same period.
The Palestinian Monetary Authority’s Report indicates that in the last quarter of 2016 the non-tax revenues significantly increased as the Israeli authorities transferred 593 million shekel to the treasury of the Ministry of Finance on grounds of signing the Electricity Agreement with the Israeli Power Plant. Moreover, the Israeli authorities transferred 580 million shekel from the Gaza clearing dues that means improving the clearing revenues. Further, 558 million shekel was transferred to the PA in light of renewing the licenses of Paltel and Jawwal Companies. During the abvoementioned period, the local revenues increased, leading to a surplus of 82.6 million shekel in the current account. In 2016, the amount of foreign aid to the Palestinian government reached 2.9 billion shekel, including 805.9 million shekel only in the last quarter. Thus, around 27.5% of the total PA expenses was covered in the same period, leading to a financial surplus instead of the former accumulated deficit, as the total balance reached 581.9 million shekels. These figures indicate to an improvement in the foreign financial aid in the last year and refute the idea of having a financial hardship, which the Palestinian government attempts to use as a justification for the latest decision taken against its civil and military servants in Gaza. The PA’s financial reports point out that the actual public expenditure had a decline of 7.2% in the last quarter of 2016. This mainly affected wages and salaries in the budget, declining to around 32.5% as the Palestinian government has not made any real appointments in the Gaza Strip, particularly in light of the suffering of the Health and Education sectors due to the retirement of hundreds and even thousands of servants in the same period.
PCHR calls upon the Palestinian President and the Prime Minister of the National Unity Government to cancel immediately this unlawful decision, which aims at targeting civil and military servants’ livelihoods. PCHR also calls upon both the President and Prime Minister to order the Ministry of Finance to return all the financial cutbacks to all the Gaza Strip servants and to search for other mechanisms, which would contribute to achieving job security and protecting these servants and their families from the deteriorating economic and social conditions. PCHR is concerned that these measures would deepen the Palestinian political division, which the public servants in the Gaza Strip pay for.