ILO report sees further economic and social deterioration in the occupied Arab territories

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at tomaatnet.nl
Mon Aug 11 08:20:48 MDT 2003


Wednesday 11 June 2003
( ILO/03/30 )

GENEVA (ILO News) - The economic and social crisis in the occupied Arab
territories has deepened markedly over the past year, with rising
unemployment and plummeting incomes leading to an "untenable" situation,
according to a new report * of the Director-General of the International
Labour Office (ILO).

However, the report, to be discussed by delegates to the ILO's 91st
International Labour Conference here on Thursday, 12 June, also says
"economic and social situation may have stabilized in the first half of
2003, albeit at a significantly lower level than before the outbreak of the
intifada in September 2000".

The crisis also had a deep impact on the economy in Israel, which underwent
a second year of recession in 2002 with negative growth of its gross
domestic product (GDP), the report says. It cited Bank of Israel estimates
that the intifada cost the economy between 3 and 3.8 per cent of GDP in
2002.

The period from June 2002 to May 2003 was marked by a deepening of the
economic and social crisis in the occupied territories, the report says,
with unemployment rising to between 31 and 38 per cent and cumulative income
per capita dropping in 2002 to below 50 per cent of its 1999 level.

"The severe restrictions on movements of persons and goods within the
occupied territories and between these and Israel have resulted in a
dramatic decline in consumption, income and employment levels, and
unprecedented contraction of economic activity, including output, trade and
investment", the report says. "The present situation is untenable and cannot
be allowed to continue."

However, the report also says the situation may have reached a "turning
point" since early this year, due to political developments on the ground as
well as the emergence of the so-called "road map" proposed by the
international community aimed at creating an independent Palestinian State
and ending the long-standing conflict within two years.

The report also cited "a moderate easing of closures" as of early 2003
compared with the near-complete closure imposed during March-April 2002, as
well as an increase in the number of work permits issued to Palestinian
workers for employment in Israel, resumption of tax payments collected by
Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, the resilience of Palestinian
workers and employers and the flow of international aid as factors in a
modest stabilization of the economic situation.

Nevertheless, border closures in the occupied territories remain a "dominant
feature of daily life", and the construction of a separation wall along the
western border of the West Bank, military incursions, destructions and
losses of human lives, and the pursuit of the Israeli settlements policy
have lead to further economic and social deterioration, the report says.

Referring to the new perspectives opened by the "Road Map", the report
underlines that "building labour institutions becomes an essential component
towards statehood".

The ILO has already contributed US$1.4 million from its own budget for the
establishment of a Palestinian Fund for Employment and Social Protection.
The report says the ILO "will have a role to play in dealing with issues of
employment, social security and social dialogue".

"The ILO has taken and will continue to take steps to strengthen its
technical cooperation programme aimed at creating sustainable jobs and
future employment opportunities and reforming labour institutions", says the
report.

Working with workers and employers, the ILO will focus on assisting the
Palestinian authority in implementing its reform agenda and the
establishment of statehood, cooperating with the Ministry of Labour and
employers' and workers' organizations to become fully functioning
institutions within a democratic state; providing technical assistance for
establishing and running the Palestinian Fund for Employment and Social
Protection; and assisting in the creation of a badly needed system of social
protection.

"There is a clear role for healthy social dialogue to prepare and accompany
the many reforms required to lead to economic recovery and provide
Palestinian workers with rights at work and productive and remunerative
employment and protection", concludes ILO Director-General, Juan Somavia.
"In the final analysis, the success of the ILO's programmes with our
constituents is premised on positive political developments and collective
cooperation. We shall always be prepared to support dialogue for peace. All
of us must nurture hope and move ahead."

Source:
http://www-ilo-mirror.cornell.edu/public/english/bureau/inf/pr/2003/30.htm





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