Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is overseeing the construction of a multi-million dollar luxury presidential palace in Ramallah, The Times of Israel reported, despite a severe economic crisis in the PA.
At a time when Palestinian universities are on the verge of collapse due to debt caused by unpaid commitments by the Ministry of Education, the $13 million Presidential Guest Palace in the town of Surda, Ramallah sprawls across 27 dunams (6.67 acres) of land.
According to the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction (PECDAR) website, “The goal of this project is to establish the Presidential Guest Palace in Surda, Ramallah within an area of 4,700 m2, along with a building for the Presidential Administration and Guards with an area of 4,000 m2, the construction process includes also preparing the surrounding area and two helipads, the project will be constructed over a land area of 27,000 m2.”
The PECDAR website lists the project as “Self-Financing – Ministry of Finance”, indicating that the PA is covering the costs of the construction out of its budget. The debt-riddled PA, however, is struggling to pay salaries, having lost $5.4 billion in aid pledged in October by other countries which ultimately failed to transfer the funds.
It was also hit hard by an Israeli decision in January to withhold taxes collected by the government on the PA’s behalf after the PA initiated the process of joining the International Criminal Court in an effort to bring war crimes charges against the Jewish state. Those funds, which the PA uses to pay civil servant salaries, were released only in April.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides a multitude of public services to Palestinians, is also cash-strapped, leading to further suffering among the people. All this despite an estimated “$25 billion in financial aid from the US and other countries during the past two decades,” according to Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, cited by Israel National News.
According to its website, PECDAR’s objectives include “coordinating the flow of international assistance for the benefit of the Palestinian people” and “identifying investment projects and other activities to be financed by the donor countries.” The site fails to explain, however, what benefit this project might serve to the Palestinian people.