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Electricity company protests debt amnesty for refugees

Dec. 31, 2012 2:40 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 3, 2013 1:01 P.M.)
NABLUS (Ma'an) -- An electricity company in the northern West Bank went on strike on Monday in protest against the terms of a deal which would see refugees in the West Bank start paying for electricity usage.

Yahya Arafat, director of the electricity company, told Ma'an that the mayors of both Jenin and Nablus encouraged the company to go on strike in light of the deal signed between PA premier Salam Fayyad and representatives of refugee camps in the West Bank.

One of the eleven terms of the deal states that all accumulated debts from refugee camp electricity bills will be canceled, which Arafat described as an unacceptable reward to those who refused to pay for electricity usage.

"The agreement is a reward to subscribers who were not paying their bills at the expense of those who have been paying regularly," he said, stating that the majority of refugees in the Nablus and Jenin districts had been paying their bills.

New subscribers to the terms of the electricity agreement will have all debts accumulated before Dec. 31, 2012, canceled, with the PA footing the bill to the electricity company.

Subscribers will also receive pre-paid electricity meters for free, according to the deal.

The agreement signed on Sunday with the executive office for popular committees in the camps mandates electricity meters for all refugee residents.

The first 160 KW will be provided at cost price, and needy families will have their first 150 KW fully subsidized by the ministry of social affairs.

Refugees living in the West Bank had been exempted from paying for electricity bills, and Palestinian power companies said the gap in payments was a main reason for their accumulating debts.

In the summer, Palestinian officials said Israel was threatening to cut off power over the unpaid debts. In December, Israel seized Palestinian tax revenues to pay off part of the bill, which now totals around $100 million.
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