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PA and Gaza economy ministries head-to-head over Gaza import tax hike

Sept. 12, 2015 3:06 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 13, 2015 11:50 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian Authority Ministry of Economy has been lobbying its Gazan counterpart to reconsider a recent decision to implement a higher tax on products entering the Gaza Strip, including those coming from the West Bank, the PA deputy minister told Ma’an on Saturday.

PA Deputy Minister of Economy, Taysir Amro, told Ma'an that the two ministries have been involved in talks on the matter, with Amro stressing the risks of imposing extra taxes on the Gazan people, and the possible economic backlash of the decision to include West Bank products in the taxation.

The Gazan Ministry of Economy announced the tax hike on Sept. 1 after a meeting at the ministry where the details of the taxation were determined, however, the amount of the tax increase in currently unclear.

While the Deputy Minister of Economy in the Gaza Strip, Imad al-Baz, told Ma’an that his ministry had not received complaints from Gazans regarding the extra taxes, Amro said the PA had been contacted by several Gazan merchants who object to the decision.

Amro said he has demanded that the Hamas-led government void the tax increase, calling it “unacceptable nonsense,” as the Palestinian territory should be treated as one body.

“The movement of Palestinian products from the northern to southern districts is considered movement inside one national market, and it is not reasonable to impose taxes on them,” Amro said. “It’s unacceptable nonsense.”

Al-Baz insisted that the taxes are the same levies imposed on all products entering the Strip, whether they were coming from the West Bank, Israel or abroad, and the inclusion of West Bank products in the taxation is "nothing new."

An official from the Gaza Chamber of Commerce, Maher al-Tabba, told Ma'an that the chamber had not yet received a letter from the Gaza Ministry of Economy officially imposing the tax increase.

Al-Tabba added that a meeting with the Gaza Ministry of Economy is to be held on Sunday to discuss the subject.

Earlier this month the United Nations released a study on theconditionof the Strip which said that the socio-economic standings in Gaza are currently "at their lowest point since 1967," when Israel seized the territory from Egypt in its Six-Day War.

The report estimated that Israel's last three military operations, including last year's devastating war that killed some 2,200 Palestinians and displaced half a million more, had caused economic losses close to three times the size of Gaza's local gross domestic product.

"Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020 if current economic trends persist," the report said.

In May, the World Bank announced that the Gazan economy was “on the verge of collapse.”

The study found that nearly 80 percent of the population in Gaza is receiving social assistance, and 40 percent of the population falls below the poverty line.

While the Hamas-led government is struggling to keep its economy afloat, both the United Nations and the World Bank have said economic recovery in Gaza is conditional upon ending Israel's blockade on the Strip.

Tibi / Tubas
HAMAS STILL NEEDS to raise more money for tunnels and
ROCKETS, and rebuilding has cut into what they would normally
"divert" (steal) from international donations and charity for the poor.
13/09/2015 02:21
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