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Monetary Authority: Palestine banks safe from hacks

Jan. 16, 2012 8:05 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 20, 2012 7:34 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian Monetary Authority chief said Monday that Palestinian banks were safe from hackers as three Israeli banks and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange came under cyber attack.

Jihad al-Wazir told Ma'an that Palestinian banks were backed up with advanced systems that could not be penetrated by hackers. In the past, hackers had been able to access some visa cards but there had been no large-scale damage, he added.

Palestinian banks have weathered the financial crisis due to prudent measures in place before the Arab Spring erupted a year ago, the PMA governor said.

PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said last week that his government owes $1.1 billion in bank loans, as well as $400 million in unpaid revenues to private sector contractors. The PA is working to cut spending and had increased taxes in order to ease the crisis, the premier told reporters.

Al-Wazir assured that the authority would not break the limits on lending to the public sector, highlighting the unpaid bank loans.

"We help the authority within the criteria that govern the work of banks and we cannot exceed these," he said.

The monetary chief said Palestinian banks remain financially sound due to careful regulation. They maintain a financial leverage ratio of 12 percent, higher than many European banks and put aside 15 percent of profits into a special account, he added.

By 2013, the Palestinian Authority will form an independent central bank, allowing the government to use its own currency regardless of political developments, he said.

Reconciliation between Palestinian factions can only strengthen the work of the bank, the PMA chief added.

"Banks in the West Bank and Gaza cannot be divided."
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