World Bulletin / News Desk
Business analysts and economists are raising the alarm over rising unemployment rates in the Gaza Strip amid rapidly deteriorating economic conditions in the besieged coastal enclave.
"Unemployment will rise in a shocking manner in the next few months," Maher al-Tabaa, public relations officer at the Gaza Chamber of Commerce, told Anadolu Agency.
Al-Tabaa expects Gaza's unemployment rate to reach a staggering 40 percent if the once-active network of smuggling tunnels linking the strip to Egypt's Sinai Peninsula remained non-operational.
In an ongoing crackdown, the Egyptian army has destroyed most of the tunnels along the border with Gaza – tunnels that had served as the hapless territory's only source of badly-needed goods due to a seven-year-old Israeli blockade on the strip.
Making matters worse, Israel suspended the entry of all construction materials into the Gaza Strip following the discovery of a tunnel – dug by Gaza-based resistance faction Hamas – linking the strip to Israel.
In September, Israel had allowed construction materials into the enclave for the first time in six years.
Al-Tabaa said that Gaza's economy – after enjoying relative stability over the past two years – would suffer a blow in upcoming months, which would see local construction activities brought back to square one.
Gaza's unemployment rate, he said, which reached almost 28 percent during this year's second quarter, was expected to rise dramatically in the immediate future.
"And this will have disastrous consequences," al-Tabaa warned. "We will face a humanitarian and social crisis that will get worse every day.
The ongoing Egyptian crackdown on the smuggling tunnels, meanwhile, has deprived the Palestinian enclave of most of its basic needs, which used to come through the tunnels from Egypt.
A recent study by Gaza's Economy Ministry predicted that unemployment in the months ahead would approach the strip's all-time low – seen in 2008 – of 50 percent.
Gaza's unemployment rate reached 27.9 percent during the second quarter of 2013, according to the Palestinian Central Auditing Agency. Roughly 40 percent of Gaza's overall population of some 1.8 million is poor.
Economics professor Mohamed Meqdad expects the Israeli ban on construction materials into Gaza through the Karem Abu Salem border crossing to further tighten the economic noose on the strip.
"The entry of building materials into Gaza had partially stimulated construction activities in the strip, which had allowed the people of Gaza to complete international projects," al-Meqdad said.
He added that recent losses sustained by the Gazan economy had negatively impacted job creation, which, he said, would likely contribute to rising unemployment.
The study by the Gaza Economy Ministry predicted that the local unemployment rate would soon reach 43 percent – even higher, perhaps, if Egypt continued its crackdown on the smuggling tunnels.
"Conditions in Gaza today are similar to those that prevailed during the early years of the Israeli blockade," economy analyst Mohsen Abu Ramadan said.