Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Palestinian National Authority should change course

I wrote this paper back in 2008, but nothing has changed eversince. 

The main objective of this paper is to focus the light on an issue which concerns the whole Palestinian people who strives to establish a government (regime) based on the principle of the “Rule of Law”, and who aims simultaneously at fighting corruption.

The issue concerns the salaries of members of both the Legislative and Executive Powers of the Palestinian National Authority, established in 1994.

However, the birth of the PNA was the product of the Declaration of Principles (DOP) signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the State of Israel in Washington D.C. on September 13th, 1993.

The “Interim Agreement” was signed by the two sides in 1995, granting the Palestinians, living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, an interim self-government, as a preliminary step towards a future independent Palestinian State.

The abovementioned agreement empowered the Palestinian interim self-government to adopt legislation through Article 18/1, which stated:

    “For the purpose of this Article, legislation shall mean any primary and secondary legislation, including basic laws, laws, regulations and other legislative acts”.
By virtue of this article, the Palestinian Basic Law (Constitution) was promulgated in 2002 in order to regulate the principal organs – Legislature, Executive and Judicial – of the PNA and their relations to each others and to the people, and their competences, and to guarantee the rights of the Palestinian people.

In addition, many other laws were adopted by the Palestinian Legislative Council to regulate the daily life and relations of the Palestinians.

For the purpose of this paper, I will focus on the effects of Articles 44, 55 and 81 of the Palestinian Basic Law.

Article 44 states the following:

   “The President’s salary, allowances and remuneration shall be determined by law”

In compliance with this article, the Palestinian Legislative Council approved “Law concerning the Allowances and Remuneration of the PNA President number 18 of year 2005”.
According to Article 2 of this law, the President of the Palestinian National Authority shall receive a monthly salary of 10,000 US dollars. In addition, Article 6 of the same law provides that he shall also receive a sum of 50,000 US dollars for appearance improvement.

However, Article 55 of the Palestinian Basic Law talks about the regulation of the PLC Members’ salaries through a law as well.

Furthermore, Article 81 of the Palestinian Basic Law provides that the remuneration and allowances of the Prime Minister and Ministers must also be determined by law.

For the purpose of Articles 55 and 81 of the forementioned law, the PLC approved “Law concerning the Allowances and Remuneration of the PLC Members and the Members of the Government and Governors number 11 of year 2004”.
Article 2 of the abovementioned law states that the Speaker of the PLC, who is at the same time a member of the Council, shall receive a monthly salary of 4000 US dollars, while the other PLC Members shall be paid 3000 US dollars monthly, according to Article 3.

Concerning the Prime Minister, Article 5 states that he shall receive a monthly salary of 4000 US dollars. And, according to Article 7, every Minister is paid 3000 US dollars.

Furthermore, Article 14 provides that each of the Speaker and Members of the PLC, as well as the Prime Minister and Ministers, shall receive an amount of 15,000 US dollars for appearance improvement.

After this short presentation, we wonder: Why should those in power receive such big sums of money while the majority of the suffering Palestinian people lives on less than 10 dollars per day? Besides, what we obtain is not more than an interim self-government, and not an independent state.

However, the Palestinian treasury depends to a great extent on the external financial aid. This financial support is meant to be directed or allocated to the construction of institutions and a well-based civil society, and to the well-being of the Palestinians during the interim period, in order to pave the way for the establishment of the Palestinian State.

But we notice that the contrary is done; the financial aid is being allocated, by laws, to cover the high salaries and improve the appearance of those in the authority, while the majority of Palestinians lives below the poverty line, and others walk around bare-footed, especially in the Gaza Strip Refugee camps.

It is thus clear that building a strong civil society, so as to be the solid base for the future State of Palestine, is rather improbable, as long as the Palestinian National Authority does not change course.

In conclusion, the dream of establishing a Palestinian State would remain as such, as long as the PNA does not refrain from issuing “profitable laws”, or amend the existing ones, because the original aim of laws is to regulate matters and prohibit corruption, and never to legalize the misuse of public money.

Gabriel Helou
17 July 2008

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