UN­PAID GOVT SALARIES DASH AIDIL­FITRI JOY

Govt em­ploy­ees in limbo as Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity fails to pay salaries for months

New Straits Times - - WORLD -

HANI al-Laham sits down to a fam­ily din­ner af­ter a long day of fast­ing, but he has lit­tle to cel­e­brate as the end of Ra­madan ap­proaches.

De­spite hav­ing a monthly salary of 1,700 shekels (RM1,890), tied to a job in the se­cu­rity ser­vices, the Pales­tinian gov­ern­ment has re­peat­edly failed to pay Laham.

He is one of nearly 60,000 Pales­tini­ans in Gaza on the pay­roll of the in­ter­na­tion­ally-recog­nised ad­min­is­tra­tion based in the West Bank.

More than a decade ago, the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity or­dered its em­ploy­ees in the en­clave to stay at home, over a dis­pute with Gaza rulers Ha­mas, promis­ing to con­tinue pay­ing their salaries. But the money has been cut back.

“This is a dis­as­ter. Gaza is col­laps­ing,” said Laham, whose fi­nan­cial woes have seen the fam­ily evicted from their rented home in Khan Yu­nis in the Gaza Strip.

They moved to a shack on the coast near here, but even that mea­gre ex­is­tence is threat­ened.

The lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­ity is try­ing to de­mol­ish the home, claim­ing it was built with­out per­mits.

“If they give me my salary, I will rent an apart­ment. I am tired of this life,” said the 55-year-old.

Last week, Laham fi­nally re­ceived a small sum of money, ahead of Aidil­fitri, but it doesn’t cover the fam­ily’s needs.

The fam­ily’s sit­u­a­tion, and that of thou­sands of other Gazans, is one of the idio­syn­cra­sies of the bit­ter intra-Pales­tinian con­flict.

The Ha­mas move­ment seized con­trol of Gaza in 2007, af­ter a near civil war with the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity, which is led by pres­i­dent Mah­mud Ab­bas.

Ha­mas ar­gued it had won the 2006 par­lia­men­tary elec­tions and been de­prived of the right to rule af­ter the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity re­fused to ac­cept the re­sults.

The Gaza takeover was deemed a coup by Ab­bas, who even­tu­ally told his em­ploy­ees not to go to work un­til Ha­mas ceded power.

The salaries of staff, in­clud­ing judges, doc­tors and min­istry work­ers, con­tin­ued to be paid while they waited for bick­er­ing politi­cians to al­low them to work.

But years later, they are stuck, with Is­rael im­pos­ing a block­ade on Gaza that crip­pled the econ­omy and no re­al­is­tic em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties un­der Ha­mas.

Re­cently, fac­ing fi­nan­cial short­falls and seek­ing to isolate Ha­mas, Ab­bas sought to make cuts to the Gaza salaries.

Last year, they were re­duced by 30 per cent, while in March, the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity paid noth­ing with­out ex­pla­na­tion.

The fol­low­ing month, Ab­bas promised the salaries would be paid within a few days, but noth­ing hap­pened.

Fi­nally, 50 per cent of one month’s salary was paid on June 5, ahead of Aidil­fitri to­day.

AFP PIX

(Top) Hani al-Laham, a Pales­tinian gov­ern­ment em­ployee, sweep­ing the street out­side a cof­fee kiosk in Gaza City re­cently. (Bot­tom) Laham’s wife, Noor, with her chil­dren in their home in Gaza City.

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