PCHR calls upon the Palestinian Authority to protect Palestinians from the sharp increase in prices of fuels and basic foodstuffs

Ref: 8/2003
The PCHR is deeply concerned about the living and economic conditions of the Gaza Strip population in light of the sharp increases in the prices of fuel and basic foodstuffs at the beginning of the new year. These increases have occurred despite the relative stability of prices in the West Bank. The PCHR deplores the price increasing policies in the Gaza Strip which, without any steps towards the improvement of salaries and wages of the labor force, will inevitably decrease the purchasing power of people. PCHR also warns of the consequences of such policies with their effects on families and individuals, who have lost their sources of income during this al-Aqsa Intifada. Many have suffered from poverty and the percentage of the population living below the poverty line has mounted to 75% in the whole Gaza Strip, and 82% in Rafah and Khan Yunis only.

Recently, prices of fuels, including gasoline, diesel and domestic gas, have increased by 9.3%. The price of 1 liter of gasoline has increased from 4.38 NIS (approximately US$ 0.91) last month to 4.64 NIS (approximately US$ 0.97), and the price of 1 liter of diesel from 2.82 NIS (US$ 0.59) last month to 3.09 NIS (approximately US$ 0.65), while its price in the West Bank is only 2.4 NIS (approximately US$ 0.50). The price of a refill of domestic gas has mounted from 35 NIS (approximately US$ 7.30) to 37 NIS (approximately US$ 7.72). Also recently, the prices of basic foodstuffs have sharply increased. For example, the prices of a refill of flour (weighing 60kg) has increased from 70 NIS (approximately US$ 14.61) to 107 NIS (approximately US$ 22.34), which marks an increase by 53%, the price of bread has increased by 16.6%, and the price of a refill of cooking oil (weighing 3kg) has increased from 17 NIS (approximately US$ 3.55) to 21 NIS (approximately US$ 4.38), which marks an increase by 23.5%.

Despite the sharp increase of prices, the Palestinian Authority have not taken any steps towards compensating people and preserve their purchasing power, especially employees of the public and private sectors and the NGO's. This means, inter alia, the following:

1. During the recent crisis in the OPTs throughout this second Intifada, the humanitarian situation had deteriorated dramatically, rendering the lives of the majority of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank almost unbearable.

2. Despite the above, the economic policies of the Palestinian Authority in the OPTs ,in general, and in the Gaza Strip, in particular, do not take into consideration the living conditions of people. They should ensure the right of every individual to enjoy the appropriate living conditions that can meet basic needs of food, clothes, health and social services, in a protected and safe environment. They should provide social allowances for unemployed, ill, disabled and old people in all emergency situations where they have been deprived of their income.

3. The differences in policies followed by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank from those followed in the Gaza Strip, despite the different economic and social indicators in the West Bank in comparison with the Gaza Strip, constitute a form of discrimination in administrative and executive policies and measures. They also contradict the principles of equality and justice in the distribution of the limited resources. This requires that the Palestinian Authority reconsiders its executive and legislative policies and measures to ensure that Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip enjoy their economic, social and cultural rights equally and effectively.

4. All segments of the Palestinian society, including public institutions, political parties, NGOs and private institutions, should effectively participate in putting a comprehensive plan to face the crisis of the Palestinian people, in a way that protects people from poverty and marginalization and preserves the appropriate living conditions meeting basic needs, such as food, health, education and social insurance.

5. In light of the economic crisis of the Palestinian people resulted by the policies of Israeli occupying authorities, the international community should effectively contribute to the provision of basic needs of the Palestinian people to be able to have appropriate living conditions.