The Palestinian government has yet to receive any cash pledged by Iran and the Arab League because of the difficulties of bank transfers under a western-led boycott of the militant Hamas movement, said Samir Abu Eisha, the Palestinian Territories’ acting finance minister.
“Iran’s money was not transferred but hopefully soon a new national unity government will be able to bring monies in,” Mr Abu Eisha told the FT.
Earlier this month, Mahmoud Zahar, Palestinian foreign minister, said Iran had pledged more than $120m this year while the Arab League also urged immediate transactions to the Hamas-run government to ease worsening humanitarian conditions in the occupied territories.
Mr Abu Eisha, who is independent but considered close to Hamas, said the government had received almost $300m of Arab aid. However, many public sector employees have been on strike for several months after receiving only small payments in lieu of salaries, mostly from the European Union through the office of Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah’s Palestinian president.
Salaries for around 160,000 public sector workers and other government costs reach about $150m a month. Tax and customs revenues of some $55m collected on the Palestinians’ behalf have been withheld by Israel.
As of late August, about $26.5m in cash was brought in by Hamas members through the Rafah crossing point between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, said Mr Abu Eisha.
He said the Finance Ministry would release more up-to-date figures soon and reiterated that the government budget was kept separate from that of the Hamas movement, which runs an extensive network of charitable organisations.
Many Palestinians claim Hamas supporters have received financial aid at the expense of the larger population.
Fuel subsidies costing up to $12m a month would be cut to zero within the next few months as part of a reform programme, said Mr Abu Eisha. Meanwhile, a recent new contract with Israeli fuel supplier Paz would lead to savings of up to Shk80m ($18m) a year, he said.
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