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Palestinian Premier Fayyad Cuts Fuel Prices Amid Protests

Sept. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said his government would take steps to cut the price of fuel and other goods, after hundreds of people protested against the high cost of living in Ramallah.

Before Fayyad announced the steps, Palestinian National Initiative party Chairman Mustafa Barghouti had urged demonstrators to protest until the government resolved the financial and economic crisis in the West Bank and “people get better living conditions.”

It was the latest in a series of protests about living standards, after delays in payment of civil servants and increases in fuel prices. Fayyad promised that employees would get paid tomorrow, with those making less than 2,000 shekels ($505) a month getting their full salary and others half, and said he plans to reduce value-added-tax to 15 percent from 15.5 percent on Oct. 1.

“The high prices of basic products is not the fault of the Palestinian Authority, it is a regional and international problem and this issue is a big challenge to the Authority,” Fayyad said at the press conference.

He blamed Israel for delaying the handover of taxes it collects on behalf of the PA, saying that was one of the reasons for the government’s financial problems.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a press conference in Jerusalem today that his government has been trying to help the Palestinians deal with their economic problems.

Economic growth in the West Bank will probably slow to 5 percent this year from 5.7 percent last year, the International Monetary Fund said in a March report. Gaza’s growth rate is expected to drop to 9 percent from about 20 percent last year, according to the report.

To contact the reporters on this story: Dana El Baltaji in Dubai at delbaltaji@bloomberg.net; Saud Abu Ramadan in Jerusalem at sramadan@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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