The Palestinian Peopleâ€™s Party and other left-wing groups held non-violent marches in cities throughout the West Bank Saturday, challenging the Palestinian Authorityâ€™s proposed austerity measures and privatization schemes.Several hundred people gathered in Bethlehem and in Hebron, Nablus and Salfit, challenging what they call the â€˜capitalist eliteâ€™ of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank (led by the Fateh party) â€“ including President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
Specifically, the rallies focused on new taxes proposed in January by Salam Fayyad, the Prime Minister of the Fateh-led Palestinian Authority. Under Fayyadâ€™s proposal, the general income tax rate for Palestinians would double from 15% to 30%. The reasoning behind this move is to reduce the PAâ€™s deficit â€“ brought about mainly by promised international assistance that was never delivered â€“ from $1.1 billion to $750 million.
But Palestinians in the West Bank, many of whom are living on extremely low wages to begin with, have challenged the across-the-board tax hikes, and instead encouraged the extremely wealthy, like Fayyad, to pay a higher share in taxes than the lowest-paid Palestinians.
The Palestinian GDP per capita is 17 times less than the Israeli GDP â€“ but since Israel controls all aspects of the Palestinian economy, including exports and imports, prices for goods in the West Bank are generally sold at Israeli prices â€“ which are out of reach for the vast majority of Palestinians.
At one of Saturdayâ€™s rallies, Khalid Mansour, a leader of the Palestinian Peopleâ€™s Party, called on the Palestinian Authority to lower taxes on basic goods, including fuel, electricity, water, food and medicine.
After a â€˜dialogueâ€™ with other Palestinian political parties, Fayyad agreed to temporarily suspend the tax hikes until further investigation is conducted into the effects of the proposed hikes.