RAMALLAH: The World Bank warned the Palestinian economy faces a “bleak” outlook as Zionist entity continues its blockade of the Gaza Strip and has increased restrictions on the occupied West Bank. In a new report, the global lender commended efforts by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to slim its public wage bill but said the economies of the Gaza Strip and West Bank remain heavily dependent on foreign donor support and hindered by Zionist entity’s restrictions.

Zionist entity-imposed “restrictions on movement and access in the West Bank and the restrictions resulting in near-blockade in Gaza remain among the most important obstacles to growth and private sector development in the Palestinian territories,” the report said. “If not eased or lifted, the Palestinian economy is expected to continue operating well below its potential,” it added.

Zionist entity routinely withholds tax revenues from the West Bank-based PA, claiming to do so in response to the Authority’s payments to the families of Palestinians killed by Zionist entity forces. Under past peace accords, Zionist entity collects taxes and customs revenues on behalf of the Authority.

In January, Zionist entity’s far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said the Zionist entity would withhold around $40 million of revenues in response to the PA successfully lobbying for a UN General Assembly vote referring Zionist entity’s occupation of Palestinian territories to the International Court of Justice. Some observers expressed fears of radical Zionist entity’s policy changes in the West Bank under Zionist entity Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government, formed in December.

The World Bank report warned that “decisions by the newly elected Zionist entity government to double the monthly deductions from clearance revenues... could signal a discouraging trend going forward.” Further highlighting the West Bank’s economic dependence on Zionist entity, the report noted some 22.5 percent of Palestinians in the territory work in Zionist territory or Zionist settlements in the West Bank. Overall unemployment across Gaza and the West Bank stood at 24.4 percent, it added. Outside “sources of risks, such as in the areas of food and energy prices, mean the overall economic outlook remains bleak”, Stefan Emblad, the World Bank’s country director for the Palestinian territories, said in the report.

The bank’s assessment coincided with another report Tuesday by UN Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland, warning that without an immediate “strategic shift” there could be a “serious reversal in the Palestinian state-building project”.  — AFP