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New Palestinian Government Holds Its First Meeting

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RAMALLAH, June 11, 2013 (WAFA) – The new Palestinian government headed by Rami Hamdallah and which was sworn in on Thursday held its first meeting in Ramallah Tuesday.

Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Muhammad Mustafa, who is also acting as government spokesman for a temporary period, told a press conference that the government agenda included discussion of current and future financial, economic, political and social issues.

He said each of the ministers was asked to prepare a plan for his or her ministry for the next 100 days in order for the government to present its 100-day plan.

He also said the various political, economic, social, Jerusalem affairs and infrastructure committees were named.

On the political level, Mustafa said the government will follow the program of President Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO, which he said “we are committed to it and will do our best to support it and implement its program.”

The government also said it will support the prisoners and work toward their release.

It also expressed concern over Israeli settlement policy, particularly in Jerusalem, and called on the Arab countries to support the Palestinians economically and politically.

The government also expressed support for peace efforts by US Secretary of State John Kerry, wishing him success in his efforts.

Mustafa said the new government is “transitional” until a new government of national reconciliation is formed. However, he said, it will continue to function as if it will remain in office endlessly.

He said the Palestinian government was facing “a big financial crisis.”

He said that based on a report by Finance Minister Shukri Bishara, the government has a debt of $4.2 billion.

He said $1.2 billion is for the Palestinian banks; $1 billion is debt for international institutions; $1 billion for the retirement fund and the remaining $1 billion for contractors, pharmaceutical companies and other Palestinian businesses.

Mustafa said that 70% of its revenues come from international aid and the tax funds Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority on good coming in through its ports.

“We do not have any control over this money and therefore until this change, any economic plan will remain short,” he said.

“We need quick financial resources, we need to watch our spending and we need to improve tax collection,” he said.

He said the economic situation was difficult with high cost of living, declining value of salaries, limited income and high unemployment.

M.S.

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