Ma'an News Agency (Analysis)
September 8, 2010 - 12:00am

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian Authority will continue efforts to reduce public sending to reduce dependence on external financial support, a spokesman told Ma'an on Tuesday.

Ghassan Al-Khatib said that while the reduction alone would not suffice to limit dependence on external support, the PA would also increase revenues through investment and the development of the Palestinian economy.

Al-Khatib said the PA decided to withdraw 6,200 government cars from high-level civil servants, except for ministers and undersecretaries, describing the move as the start of a series of procedures to reduce spending and a place a "stop on wasting public money."

PA cabinet ministers voted on Monday to decrease current government running costs, including a reduction in the use of government cars. "We can’t discuss these procedures now as they are still being crystallized," he said.

The spokesman said the move might harm some civil servants, "However, the feedback from the public was positive and only prejudiced employees complained."

The spokesman added that arrangements have been made to control so-called "ghost employees" on the PA payroll receiving salaries without being on duty.

PLC member: Public has been waiting for control on government spending

Vice Palestinian Legislative Council deputy Hassan Khreisha lauded the PA's decision but said he hoped "such procedures will become an adopted policy rather than a 'show off' procedure," adding that the Palestinian public has long waited for a curb on government spending.

"I know several officials who have a government car, another from the PLO, and a third of their on and so on," he said, adding that he knew of several officials shipping government cars to neighboring countries but retaining the Palestinian license plate.

Khreisha further said that a considerable PA expense was the renting of government buildings. "Renting headquarters for ministries and other institutions, as well as apartments for civil servants should come to an end."

Other issues the PA should deal with to reduce government spending included the distribution of fuel vouchers for government cars and office furniture in ministries. "Each newly-appointed minister will buy new furniture for his ministry’s offices, and some general managers have very prestigious offices."

EU supports PA cabinet's decision

A high-level EU official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the EU was "attentively" following up with premier Salam Fayyad's procedures aimed at reducing the PA's dependence on external financial support.

The official applauded the PA for its success in reducing government spending, describing it as a positive indicator "worth encouragement." The EU will continue to support the PA, the official said, until a Palestinian state is established.

According to statistics released by Fayyad's office, the PA has reduced its dependence on foreign donation by 54 percent in 2009 and 65 percent in 2010.

However, several PA officials and union leaders have warned of a cash crisis faced within government, with fears that it would not be able to pay civil servants' salaries.


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