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Study: Occupation costs Palestinian economy $7 billion

Sept. 29, 2011 4:11 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 2, 2011 12:40 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian Authority ministry and national research institute released a joint study Thursday which estimates that the Israeli occupation cost the Palestinian economy around $7 billion in 2010.

"Without the occupation, the Palestinian economy would be almost twice as large as it is today," the PA Ministry of National Economy and the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem said in a statement.

Losses sustained by Israel's occupation are equivalent to 85 percent of Palestinian nominal GDP, the study found.

Without Israel's control of resources and access to Palestinian territories, the economy "would run a 'healthy' fiscal surplus, ending its dependence on donors' aid," the report said.

The research quantified, for example, Israel's ban on Palestinian access to the Jordan River, Dead Sea and groundwater aquifers in the West Bank, as costing Palestinians $1.9 billion in lost agriculture revenues, $1.2 billion in mineral resources and $143 million in Dead Sea tourism.

Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip cost the Palestinian economy $1.9 billion, and restrictions on water another $1.9 billion, the study said.

Israel earns around $900 million per year through control of West Bank mining and quarrying, the research authors estimated, and $150 million from commercial Dead Sea products.

ARIJ and the national economy ministry said they had to under-estimate the figures due to a lack of data, leaving out costs which they could not quantify.

Relating to the issues of trade access and resources, the authors of the study said that the "majority of these costs do not have any relationship with security concerns," and were motivated by Israel's wish to restrict the development of a competitive Palestinian economy.

Minister of National Economy in the Ramallah-based government Hasan Abu Libdeh said the report backed findings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and demonstrated the case for taking Palestinian statehood to the UN through President Mahmoud Abbas' membership bid, submitted Friday.

"No matter what the Palestinian people achieve by our own efforts, the occupation prevents us achieving our potential as a free people in our own country," the minister said.

"It should be clear to the international community that one reason for Israel’s refusal to act in good faith as a partner for peace is the profits it makes as an occupying power."

The PA will produce regular reports costing Israeli restrictions on the Palestinian economy, the release said.
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