Pales­tinian rec­on­cil­i­a­tion spells cheaper prices for Gaza con­sumers

Daily Messenger - - International -

GAZA: Gaza’s mer­chants and con­sumers are reap­ing early re­wards from rec­on­cil­i­a­tion moves by the en­clave’s dom­i­nant Ha­mas Is­lamists and the West­ern-backed Pales­tinian Author­ity (PA).

Is­raeli bor­der re­stric­tions, in­clud­ing a nearly blan­ket ban on ex­ports from Gaza, and three wars since 2008 have im­posed se­vere hard­ship in the ter­ri­tory. Is­rael says its rules are driven by se­cu­rity con­cerns, ac­cus­ing Ha­mas of hav­ing used im­ported ma­te­rial to build weapons in­clud­ing rock­ets that have been fired at its cities.

Since Ha­mas ceded Gaza’s bor­der cross­ings with Is­rael - the main gate­way for com­mer­cial im­ports - to the Author­ity on Nov 1 un­der an Egyp­tian-bro­kered unity deal, many prices in the ter­ri­tory have dropped.

The main rea­son for the de­crease: the Author­ity has can­celed sur­charges, some­times as high as 25 per­cent, that Ha­mas col­lected in cash from mer­chants in Gaza.

Busi­nesses, in turn, have passed on some of those sav­ings to cus­tomers: a 2017 Kia Pi­canto com­pact car, for ex­am­ple, now sells for $20,000 in­stead of $22,500, and a kilo of beef costs 40 shekels ($11), down from 50 ($15).

And this week, the PA, which takes its own tax in an ar­range­ment agreed with Is­rael, al­lowed the im­port of cig­a­rettes cost­ing eight shekels a pack com­pared with the usual 21 shekels for other brands, through Is­rael’s Kerem Shalom com­mer­cial cross­ing for the first time.

Cig­a­rettes used to come in only via smug­gling tun­nels un­der the Egyp­tian bor­der but the PA is seek­ing un­der­stand­ings with Ha­mas and Cairo to choke off that chan­nel.

“(Ha­mas’s fees) led to a weak­en­ing of sales power be­cause the peo­ple in Gaza live un­der bad eco­nomic con­di­tions and be­cause of the Is­raeli block­ade and the loss of jobs,” said Tareq Al-Saqqa, who owns an elec­tri­cal goods com­pany in Gaza, where un­em­ploy­ment tops 40 per­cent.

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