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World Bank provides $43 million to 'improve life' in occupied Palestinian territory

July 29, 2017 10:47 A.M. (Updated: July 29, 2017 5:36 P.M.)
Children playing in the besieged Gaza Strip (AFP/Mahmud Hams/File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The World Bank released a statement on Friday announcing that $43 million in grants would be provided to projects focused on “improving living conditions and expanding opportunities” in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Four projects aimed at assisting life in the Palestinian territory would be funded by the grant money, according to the statement, and would include programs to support municipal services in the territory, electricity sustainability, job creation through the development of the private sector, and a project to address social vulnerabilities in the Palestinian territory -- including programs to alleviate poverty and support victims of domestic violence.

The economic projects are mainly focused on the development of the private sector in Palestine, with the statement saying that the private sector is “central to the socio-economic future of the West Bank and Gaza, a region currently suffering from limited job opportunities, particularly among youth and women.”

The World Bank noted that the unemployment rate in the Palestinian territory has reached an average of 30 percent.

Last year, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) reported that the average unemployment rate in the Palestinian territory was 26 percent in 2015: in the occupied West Bank, unemployment stood at 17 percent, compared to a staggering 41 percent in the besieged Gaza Strip. Trade unions in the Gaza Strip estimate unemployment there has reached 60 percent.

For Palestinian women the gender wage gap in the Palestinian territory has further exacerbated hardships amid soaring unemployment rates. PCBS reported in 2016 that the average daily wage for Palestinian women in 2015 was around 90 shekels ($26), while Palestinian men made an average daily wage of 108 shekels ($31).

Israel’s half-century occupation of the West Bank has long been the main contributor to the deterioration of the Palestinian economy. The Bethlehem-based Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem has estimated that billions of dollars of potential revenue have been stifled due to Israel’s occupation.

The Gaza Strip, meanwhile, has continued to plummet into a humanitarian catastrophe owing to Israel’s decade-long siege and Palestinian Authority (PA) policies aimed at putting pressure on Hamas, the de facto leaders of the territory, by intentionally exacerbating the difficulties of life for everyday residents in Gaza.

In 2012, the UN warned that Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020 if current trends were not altered. However, a new report released this month by the UN said that “life for the average Palestinian in Gaza is getting more and more wretched,” and that for the majority of Gaza's residents, the territory may already be unlivable.
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