Israel sends Gaza’s economy ‘back to zero’
A Palestinian man covers his face to protect him from the smoke billowing from a milk factory hit by an Israeli military strike, north of Gaza City on July 31, 2014. (Photo: AFP-Marco Longari)
Attacks on the industrial sector in Gaza were no less damaging than those against people’s lives and homes.
Gaza – Al-Akhbar went on a short tour of a number of industrial and agricultural facilities in the Gaza Strip, primarily in the eastern and northern regions. Widespread destruction was noted in manufacturing plants, as well as in cattle and goat farms.
The famous electronics factory owned by Ibrahim al-Jarou Company is now a pile of rubble. Afaneh cattle farm on the road parallel to the border strip to the east had a similar fate. All the cows were killed after bombs and artillery shells hit the farm.
Head of the Food Industry Federation in Gaza, Taisir al-Safadi, maintained that the Israeli aggression caused “heavy losses, estimated at $150 million” in the food industry.
“The biggest and best factories in the Strip were destroyed, which used to provide 70 percent of local market needs,” he said on a tour of the factories in the area. “The occupation attacked the entire national infrastructure on purpose. It bombed the largest food factories to turn Gaza into a consumerist and unproductive market.”
“Gaza is losing $5 million a day, due to the suspension of all economic activities, in addition to indirect losses related to the infrastructure.” – Maher al-Tabbaa
Safadi called on the national unity government to save the factories and help their owners and other affected businesses to rebuild, “to avoid additional unemployment in the Strip, which already faces a lack of job opportunities.”
According to the Agricultural Ministry’s media representative Fayez al-Sheikh, the sector sustained $251 million in losses. “Indirect losses are estimated at $150 million,” he told Al-Akhbar.
He went on to list the losses in various agricultural categories. “They included plant production at around $131 million, soil and irrigation at $56 million, livestock at $55 million, and around $8 million in the fishing sector and fisheries.”
The industrial and agricultural sectors in Gaza had already been facing disastrous circumstances. Even before the [Israeli] aggression started on July 7, the occupation controlled the quantity and types of products [entering Gaza] through the siege it imposed on the Strip, closing all but one of the commercial crossings.
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), “the unemployment rate in Gaza has reached 41 percent.”
“More than 180,000 [people] are unemployed due to the aggravating siege and the interruption of the construction sector,” al-Sheikh added.
He also mentioned the “commercial recession and stagnation of all economic activities.”
In the same context, heads of industrial facilities in Gaza told Al-Akhbar that they feared the authorities will ignore the magnitude of the economic destruction. Some pointed out that reconstruction – after the war is over – will immediately focus on destroyed homes. The economic sector is given a low priority.
On the other hand, the Palestinian government headed by Rami Alhamdulillah announced the formation of a ministerial committee to supervise the plans for Gaza’s reconstruction. The government explained in a statement that the committee will oversee the preparation of plans for early recovery of the Strip.
The government is also busy organizing the donors conference planned for early next month. It aims to mobilize the necessary support for reconstruction, in addition to supporting its budget.
However, economic expert Maher al-Tabbaa said, “This time, the war brought the Palestinian economy back to zero. We urgently need to form a special independent body for Gaza’s reconstruction, which includes the public and private sectors and specialized bodies to coordinate and supervise reconstruction projects.”
“This time, the economic sector sustained a powerful blow, losing more than $3 billion,” he told Al-Akhbar.
As an example, he pointed out that “the Israeli war machine destroyed dozens of factories, in addition to the annihilation of whole industrial zones and directly targeting poultry and cattle farms and fishing ports.”
“Gaza is losing $5 million a day, due to the suspension of all economic activities, in addition to indirect losses related to the infrastructure.”