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Commentary on Exporting the Gaza Gas to Jenin: Monopoly is hitting the Palestinian economy and society again and again

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By: Omar Shaban

At a time that might have been carefully chosen as most of the Palestinians are busy and preoccupied by following the political news, as well as with a calmness that does not suit the seriousness of the subject, an agreement between Palestine Investment Fund, in its capacity as trustee on behalf of the Palestinian people with respect to the gas fields of the coast of the Gaza Strip, and a collective of major private sector companies – Padico, PALTELGROUP, CCC, Arabbankgroup, and others –  was established unobtrusively, yet during a perilous situation. It was conducted to supply the gas of Gaza to Jenin station in the north of the West Bank. This piece of news did not reveal any further valuable details. Many things were not clear, for instance, how the gas would be pumped from the Gaza sea to Jenin; the contract’s value and duration; would Gaza be supplied by gas or not? When would it be implemented? and many other significant details.

Palestinian natural and human resources belong to all Palestinians regardless of their location or the place where they are discovered. The Palestinian situation unquestionably requires a corroboration of the economic interdependence between all the Palestinian districts and promotion of the cultural and commercial exchange between them, which grounds a sense of national unity. Moreover, the investment of the Palestinians’ natural resources in a way that services the people and economy is to be commended to decrease the growing reliance on the Donor States and to strengthen national sovereignty. Nonetheless, all of this must be done in a transparent manner that achieves a greater good for Palestinians.

The contract is tarnished with numerous lawful flaws, which make it illegal; hence, it must be terminated. To elaborate, some companies linked to it, like the Palestine Investment Fund and CCC – owner of the Gaza power plant with its 20-year and exclusive contract – possess a huge stake in the gas fields and have the license for running the power plant of Northern West Bank. This means that they are selling to themselves. The contract was not shown to the public, and neither was its terms discussed nor presented to the inactive-for-eight-years Legislative Council. It reinforces the monopoly that influential companies practice over the Palestinian economy, which is now caged in by them.

Capital again forms an alliance with political power where general issues and interests interweave with various areas, for instance, concrete, electricity (power), banking, insurance, communication, tobacco, and many other vital fields, as well as the reconstruction of Gaza. This has been occurring since the establishment of the PA in 1994 exploiting the preoccupation of the people with, firstly, the political issues, and, latterly, the inner division, which paved the way for these companies to control the economy as well as the Palestinian society.

The practice of monopolization has led the Palestinian society to poverty and deprivation; besides, it has deepened the gap between the Palestinian upper-class and other classes. It additionally has weakened the middle-class despite the fact that it is crucial for maintaining a balance and harmony among the community. It was and still is one of the main reasons of the economic decline, low standard of living of Palestinians, and the fragility of competition in the Palestinian economy. It grants massive privileges for the monopolist minority at the expense of thousands of small companies, which form the backbone of the Palestinian economy.

The ramifications of this monopolistic contract are worse than dangerous. Not only do they exhaust the national natural resources, promote monopoly practices, and widen the gap between classes but also they harshly affect the Gaza Strip. This is because Gaza, its problems, and future are not on the agenda of the political system. According to international reports, the Gaza Strip, whose population is growing progressively and whose crises are getting larger, will become unlivable within the coming years barring action.

Providing Jenin with gas is a positive step despite some concerns that this will not benefit the ordinary citizen. However, Gaza, which has been suffering for long years from the electricity crisis and its devastating effects on all aspects of life, has the right to be on the agenda of the Authority, Palestine Investment Fund, and the political system as a whole. This is especially so because the power plant was designed to work on gas later instead of the oil imported from Israel; purchasing it puts a heavy burden on the shoulder of the budget of the Authority as well as the citizens. Therefore, using gas to run the power plant is sufficient for lowering the electricity costs.
Now the questions are :

What is the reaction of the political forces toward such a monopolistic contract, which was agreed on without any supervision from official and public monitoring institutions? What is the attitude of the Palestinian PM who has claimed recently that his government is the most transparent among all other governments in the world, which means it is more transparent than Sweden, Switzerland, and Japan!?

It seems that what I wrote several years ago was right:

“The situation in Gaza is similar to that of Nigeria in spite of the geographical distance. Nigeria is one of the largest oil exporters in the world, and is one of the world’s poorest regions. Hundreds of Nigerians die while trying to get a few liters of their oil that flows out before their eyes. Similarity, Palestinian citizens are suffering in the Gaza Strip from power and gas outages while the gas fields are in the Mediterranean are in front of them.”  For more information about the gas fields of the coast of Gaza, you can refer to the article: Gas fields in the sea of Gaza: The situation in Gaza is similar to that of Nigeria in spite of the geographical distance.

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/03/gaza-oil-fields.html

Actually, Gaza is in great  need for urgent intervention  to avoid further deterioration and to avoid a another explosion .While the international community and the Palestinian civil society have been working hard  to alleviate the suffering of  the Gaza population , the monopolistic  measures  are deepening the crises .