"Twenty-Seven Months - Intifada, Closures and Palestinian Economic Crisis: An Assessment" was prepared as a follow-up to a report published in March 2002 ("Fifteen Months - Intifada, Closures and Palestinian Economic Crisis" report no. 24931). The main objectives of this second Assessment are once again to help donors and the Palestinian Authority (PA) cope with the deep economic crisis in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as to encourage and inform discussion on Palestinian economic issues among the donors, the PA and the Government of Israel. Despite an inevitable preoccupation with short-term emergency issues, the report seeks to preserve a focus on the types of medium-term economic and institutional policies that will return to prominence once the current conflict ceases to dominate the daily lives of Palestinians and Israelis. While any short-term recovery will depend on the lifting of closures, this will not suffice to put the Palestinian economy onto a sustainable growth path. The de facto customs union with Israel formalized under the Paris Protocol makes the Palestinian economy particularly vulnerable to closure. In a structural sense, though, the long-term growth potential of the Palestinian economy has been stunted by the upward pressure on domestic Palestinian labor prices created by the wages paid to Palestinian workers in Israel. Domestic wage increases have exceeded any underlying growth in productivity, and have undermined Palestinians' ability to export competitively-priced goods to the rest of the world. Bank analysis shows that a proactive policy of export development, in which a more open and less discriminatory trade regime is adopted, should result in higher incomes by 2010 than a return to previous levels of employment in Israel. Between 1968 and 2000, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza pursued a development strategy which featured the export of labor rather than goods. In June 2000, three months before the current Palestinian intifada began, 21 percent of all employed Palestinians worked in Israel, mainly in low-skilled construction and agricultural jobs. Net incomes from abroad provided more than 21 percent of Palestinian GNI, making it one of the most remittance-dependent economies in the world. This is why the loss of jobs in Israel in the past two years has had such a strong impact. Put another way, the intifada has demonstrated the vulnerability of a development strategy which relied so heavily on labor exports to Israel. The shift to a goods-based export policy would take time, would be subject to many uncertainties and would require the active cooperation of Israel to succeed; it is thus part and parcel of a political rapprochement. It is also true that restoring access to the Israeli labor market would be the quickest way to boost incomes for a large number of ordinary Palestinians. Realistically, though, a return to pre-September 2000 employment levels for Palestinians in Israel seems unlikely - and would anyway risk perpetuating a high level of Palestinian economic dependence on Israel, hindering the emergence of a diversified development strategy with much greater long-term growth potential.
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