Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas approved a 67 percent pay rise for Palestinian Authority (PA) officials – as well as other financial benefits amounting to tens of thousands of dollars – while the West Bank’s economy struggled and swathes of public sector employees spent months with reduced pay, newly-leaked documents have revealed.
A series of confidential documents disclosing the pay rises were this week posted to social media and subsequently viewed by the Associated Press. The documents show that, in 2017, Abbas approved pay rises for PA officials, increasing their monthly salaries from $3,000 to $5,000. The prime minister’s monthly salary was raised to $6,000, the Times of Israel reported.
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In addition, these pay rises were implemented retroactively to 2014, the year that the national unity government took office in the occupied West Bank. This gave ministers “an extra bonus of tens of thousands of dollars,” Palestinian officials who spoke to the Israeli daily on condition of anonymity revealed.
Other financial benefits approved during this period include giving ministers living outside Ramallah – the seat of the government – $10,000 a year to rent a house in the city. The president also allowed currency exchange rates to be inflated, giving ministers a 17 percent premium when converting their salaries to Israeli shekels, the currency used throughout much of the West Bank.
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These moves were kept secret from the Palestinian public for the past two years.
The revelations have been met with anger, particularly given the deteriorating economic situation in the West Bank, high unemployment rates and the fact that public sector employees have been forced to accept pay cuts.
Against this backdrop, the PA has been forced to respond to the revelations leaked this week. Newly-appointed PA Prime Minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, has suspended the pay raises and referred the issue to Abbas “to review it and take legal measures”.
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While the issue is being investigated, PA ministers will now receive half their salaries – like other government employees – government spokesman Ibrahim Milhim has said.
However, former Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah – who headed the government at the time the benefits were granted – defended the measures, saying in a statement that “cabinet ministers requested the raise in 2017 from President Abbas, who approved it while taking into consideration the rising costs of living”.
For his part, Abbas has not issued a statement on his role in approving the pay rises.
(Middle East Monitor, PC, Social Media)