Spotlight: COVID-19 casts shadow on economy, weakens trade in Gaza

Source: Xinhua| 2020-05-01 22:52:53|Editor: huaxia

by Saud Abu Ramadan

GAZA, May 1 (Xinhua) -- For several weeks, loads of imported goods have piled up in the stores of Mohammad Shurab, a Palestinian merchant from Gaza, with few customers coming to buy as COVID-19 worsens the economy in the besieged strip.

Like other merchants and importers in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, Shurab complained of passing "hard days" due to the economic recession and the weak trade movement, which led to big financial losses.

"Over the past few weeks, I have imported a huge number of clothes to sell to my customers during spring and summer seasons and also during Eid al-Fitr, the feast that comes at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan," Shurab told Xinhua.

He said that the anti-coronavirus precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the virus have weakened the commercial movement and the purchasing power.

The Hamas-run government in the Gaza Strip had declared a state of emergency and imposed a series of precautionary measures that have been going on for around 45 days to prevent the pandemic from reaching the enclave, a home for 2 million people.

Gaza merchants believe that the major reason behind the aggravation of the crisis is the accumulation of financial debts and a severe drop in the trade activity.

Talal al-Maqadmah, another Palestinian merchant, who runs a local commercial company in Gaza, told Xinhua that because of the state of emergency, "we were unable to get back our financial rights from other vendors and customers."

"Over the past few weeks, banks in Gaza returned dozens of checks because merchants don't have enough bank balances to pay for these checks," he said. "The purchasing power is very weak, so we don't have enough cash to deposit in the banks and fill the shortage in our bank balances."

Amid the recorded economic and commercial losses, several local export and import companies in Gaza called for urgent support to overcome the current crisis.

Waddah Bseiso, head of the Gaza-based woods industries union, told Xinhua that no tax exemptions are provided to the merchants either by the government or by electricity and telecommunication companies to help them overcome the current crisis.

"Operations of export had nearly stopped in the Gaza Strip and caused relative losses to the commercial companies," Bseiso said. "To solve this problem, we need the efforts of the government and the private sector's establishments to rescue these companies from bankruptcy."

The Palestinian Popular Committee to Challenge the Israeli Siege imposed on Gaza said in a statement that the estimated monthly losses in the economy in the Gaza Strip hit 200 million U.S. dollars amid the pandemic crisis.

Jamal Al-Khudari, chairman of the committee, noted that most businesses had stopped, and there are a severe economic recession and a shortage in financial liquidity, "not only because of coronavirus but also because of more than 13 years of Israeli siege imposed on the Gaza Strip."

He warned that the ongoing crisis will likely push the rates of poverty and unemployment in the coastal enclave to its highest peak. Enditem