UNPAID GOVT SALARIES DASH AIDILFITRI JOY
Govt employees in limbo as Palestinian Authority fails to pay salaries for months
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.
(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.