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Minister: Unity government budget 'below zero'

Aug. 31, 2014 9:27 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 1, 2014 10:42 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinian Authority minister Shawqi al-Ayasa said the West Bank-Gaza unity government is working on a "deteriorating" budget after not receiving money from donors as scheduled.

"The government's budget is below zero, and it's starting to borrow from banks to move forward, because only less than third of donor funds that were scheduled to be received this year arrived," Al-Ayasa told Ma'an in a television interview.

"The US has not provided a single penny since Jan. 1, and Europe and Arab states only provided a third of what they were scheduled to give," he said.

The agricultural sector suffered an estimated loss of $450 million as a result of the Israeli assault on Gaza. He said the reconstruction of Gaza would take two years if construction material entered the Strip at a reasonable rate.

He said 300 shekels ($84) of aid money was given to each family that lost its home in Gaza in the offensive.

Al-Ayasa is the unity government's Minister of Social Affairs, Agriculture, and Prisoner's Affairs.

An April 23 agreement between Hamas and Fatah paved the way for the formation of a government of national unity for the first time in seven years, but Israel has strongly opposed the deal and severely targeted Hamas in the months that followed.

In June Israeli forces launched a massive offensive across the West Bank and arrested more than 600 Hamas-affiliated individuals, which was followed in July and August with a massive assault on the Gaza Strip that killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, the vast majority civilians.

The political division between Fatah and Hamas began in 2007, a year after Hamas won legislative elections across the Palestinian territories but was subjected to a boycott by Israel and Western countries that left the economy in a fragile state.
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