PA to start paying salaries

The Palestinian Authority has vowed that some of its increasingly disgruntled civil servants will start receiving back salaries early next week after four months of successive delays.

    There is growing discontent over the non-payment of salaries

    Saturday's pledge was the fourth time in a week that the Hamas-led government, grappling with a financial crisis after Western countries cut off direct aid, has said the government's 160,000 civil servants will be paid.
      
    "On Monday, those employees who make less than 1,500 shekels ($330) a month can go to the banks and get their salaries," Umar Abd al-Raziq, the finance minister, told a press conference in Ram Allah.
     
    Monday's payment of one month's salaries for the lowest earning workers will cost 60 million shekels ($13 million), he said.
      
    Those earning more than 1,500 shekels will be paid in the next stage, Abd al-Raziq said, without saying when.
      
    Hamas government spokesman Ghazi Hamad said the repeated delays were because of procedural snags, such as a new payment system by personal cheque rather than direct deposit.

    Street protests

    However, employees' patience appears to be growing thin.
      
    Workers took to the streets in the northern West Bank town of Nablus and in Ram Allah on Saturday to demand wages which have not been paid since February.
      
    In Nablus, about 2,000 frustrated government workers, armed Palestinian police among them, chanted: "We want our wages, not promises."
      
    In Ram Allah, protesters shut the city's main route by lying across the road and setting tyres on fire.
      
    On Friday, Ismail Haniya, the prime minister, said workers would start receiving their pay by Sunday at the latest.
      
    He made a similar promise last Tuesday, vowing that 40,000 employees would be paid in full in the coming days. On Wednesday, Abd al-Raziq said civil servants would receive partial payment "in the next two days".

    Around one million Palestinians, or a quarter of those living in Gaza and the West Bank, depend on government salaries. They have not been paid since the European Union and United States suspended direct aid after Hamas took office in March, because of its refusal to renounce violence and recognise Israel.
     
    Israel has also suspended the payment of customs duties, worth about $60 million a month, on goods that transit through Palestinian Authority territory.

    SOURCE: AFP


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