Ma'an News Agency
April 19, 2011 - 12:00am

Contractors and their union representatives protested Monday outside the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Finance in Ramallah over millions of dollars owed to them by the government.

Union officials said the PA owed the contractors around 200 million shekels (around $58 million) for their work on government projects.

PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's advisor Jamal Zaqout talked to the contractors and suggested they met with the premier Tuesday to discuss the debt but protesters refused the proposal, a Ma'an correspondent said.

Police blocked a main road near the Palestinian Legislative Council headquarters during the demonstration.

PA spokesman Ghassan Al-Khatib said the government would begin to make payments next week.

West Bank union chief Adel Auda said contractors would continue to boycott government bids until the debt was paid.

"It would have been more appropriate if the government, after contractors boycotted bids for two months, said they would immediately pay the money rather than saying they will pay next week," Auda said.

Auda added that further protests would be held if contractors' demands were ignored.

Union head for the West Bank and Gaza Osama Kaheil said the union would consider complaining to international donors -- including the EU and World Bank -- over the PA's failure to pay contractors.

He hinted that the union might ask donors to pay contractors directly for their work on foreign-funded projects.

Meanwhile, head of the union of industrial works Mahdi Al-Masri said the protesters represented the whole Palestinian private sector, which he said was on the verge of collapse.


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