Hundreds Protest Living Costs Across West Bank

Protesters rallied across the West Bank on Saturday, criticizing government policies that have lead to a rise in living costs.

In Hebron, hundreds marched from the Hebron municipality headquarters to the ministry of economy building, at a rally organized by leftist groups. Demonstrations were also held in Bethlehem, Nablus and Salfit.

Protesters called on the PA to revoke new tax laws proposed at the start of this year, and chanted "social and democratic rights will guarantee national rights," a Ma’an correspondent said.

Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said in early January that the PA was planning to double the income tax rate to 30 percent as part of efforts to cut the budget deficit to $750 million in 2012, from $1.1 billion a year earlier.

After launching a "national dialogue" on the government’s economic policies, Fayyad announced last Sunday it was suspending the proposed income tax hike.

Protesters on Saturday aimed to up the pressure on the PA to revoke the measures, and warned that prices had already risen because of government policies.

Othman Abu Sabha, a member of the National Initiative party, said the protests were a "natural response to government measures which have increased unemployment."

"We are becoming beggars under this new government policy, we don’t want a government that forces us to pay so many taxes, said protester Badawi Al-Turk.

"The government wants to increase its revenues while Israel’s occupation forbids Palestinians from controlling their lands and crossings," PFLP member Badran Jaber said.

Palestinian People’s Party leader Khalid Mansour called on the PA to lower taxes on basic goods, in particular fuel, electricity, water, food and medicine.

The PPP organized Saturday’s demonstration in Bethlehem, which called for the government to cancel its economic program, saying it failed to promoted social justice.

Proposed tax reform will increase the wealth of the rich and harm the poor, demonstrators said.

One protester in Salfit questioned what services people would receive in exchange for the tax rise. "The people pay themselves for almost everything, including health insurance and education, while in other countries citizens get services for their taxes," he complained.

Leftist parties organizing the Hebron protest released a statement Saturday calling on the PA to "immediately halt its privatization policy and to review the budget to take into account people’s national and humanitarian needs."

(Ma’an News)

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