Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Bleak Condition of Gaza

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development ("UNCTD") issued a report (9/1/15) on the status of its assistance to the Palestinian people in the occupied territories (Gaza and the West Bank).  The report  paints a bleak picture. It does not clearly separate between the Gaza strip and the West Bank. For example, it does not spell out the revenues available to Hamas in its administration of Gaza. Nevertheless, the following can be gleaned with respect to Gaza.

Gaza is predicted to be uninhabitable within five years.

The population of Gaza is 1.8 million people, approximately the combined total of the cities of San Francisco and San Jose California.

Through eight years of military blockade and three successive wars in 2008, 2012, and 2014, Israel has destroyed and degraded the Gazan infrastructure and economy. Unemployment in the Gaza strip is at 44 percent. Six in 10 households suffer from food insecurity.

Since 2007 exports from Gaza are banned and imports and transfers of cash are severely limited. Flow of all but the most basic humanitarian goods has been suspended. Per capita GDP in Gaza is 74% of what it was prior to the Oslo accords. The report indicates a real GDP per capita in constant 2004 dollars of ~$1,000--about $2.70/day.

Among young women the unemployment rate is 80%. The ramifications of persistently high unemployment will be devastating in the long term, says the report,  as training and education among the long term unemployed become obsolete.

The latest military operation in 2014 has destroyed virtually all of what was left of the middle class in Gaza, says the report, relegating "almost all of the population into destitution and dependance on international humanitarian aid."

During the military operation last summer, more than 500,000 Gazans were displaced, and more than 100,000 remain so as of mid-2015. A partial list of damage listed in the report includes:

  • 18,000 housing units destroyed or badly damaged 
  • 26 schools destroyed and 226 damaged
  • 17 hospitals and 56 primary health centers damaged
  • Gaza's sole power plant severely affected by damage, lack of fuel, and extensive damage to power lines
  • 20-30% of the water and sewage network damaged
  • Water de-salination plant in Deir al-Balah damaged
  • 220 agricultural wells destroyed or badly damaged
  • 40,000 agricultural workers affected by damage to land and destruction of livestock
  • 247 factories and 300 commercial establishments destroyed or badly damaged
The combined damage from the past three wars totals more than 300% of Gaza's potential GDP at full employment. 

Gaza faces a severe water crisis. It relies almost completely on a coastal aquifer as the source of its drinking water, but 95% of this water is not potable without treatment. Years of over-extraction have left the aquifer on the verge of collapse, threatening its long-term viability. Groundwater levels have declined and seawater has rushed in, increasing salinity and making the water not safe for drinking according to WHO standards. The aquifer may become unusable as early as 2016. 

Destruction of sewage facilities has made matters worse. About 33 million cubic meters of untreated or inadequately treated sewage are dumped into the Mediterranean every year. 

The electricity demand of the strip cannot be met. Only a fraction of needed electricity is available. 

The development of gas fields discovered within Gaza's waters could help a lot, but Israel's occupation does not permit these fields to be developed. 

As of now, Gaza lacks the resources and support to reconstruct the damage, it lacks the ability to develop its economy. The situation is bleak.



  1. The Gazans are pawns in the region's great game. There is a battle between Iran and Saudi Arabia for dominance. The Saudis have taken the side of the Palestinian cypto-state and Iran backs Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Israeli governments at the times of these wars believed that it was in the best interest of their people. The Hamas government either condoned or could not control the action of armed cadres. The Saudis probably could pull Gaza out of its misery. At this point, Gaza is a bad investment.

  2. Thanks, Don. It's a tragedy anyway one looks at it. I'm not sure how much power Meshal or Hanieh have, parading in $3,000 suits in Qatar, vs. the the military guys in Gaza and Istanbul.

    It seems to me Qatar and Turkey are bigger players with Hamas these days than the Saudis or Iran.

    It's a macabre game theory problem. Seems to me the move for Hamas to a) accept Israel, b) renounce violence, and c) dedicate themselves to building up Gaza with Israel's and International help is the right (no brainer) move. Seems to me for Israel to ease up on the blockade and to do everything it can do to help build water and sewer systems and rebuild housing, and a modicum of good will--while keeping an embargo on weapons--is the right (no brainer move). Seems to me these moves make sense on both sides even without the other party acting in what would seem to be its best interest. Neither side's leadership is doing what is right, and the population of Gaza remains screwed.

    It's the kind of behavior that put Kayla through college... as we say in the litigation trade.