|Restricted imports / exports into Gaza|
Since June 2007, Israel has imposed restrictions on the transfer of goods into the Gaza Strip, allowing only goods defined as vital for the survival of the civilian population. The package of relaxation measures announced in June 2010 has led to an increase in the volume of imports: According to UN data, there was a 24 percent increase in imports in 2011 compared to the previous year (49,283 truckloads in 2011 compared to 39,630 in 2010). However, this followed a low base-line in 2010, the result of restrictions due to the blockade. The monthly average of truckloads into Gaza through Kerem Shalom in 2011 was still only approximately 36 percent of the quantity entering in the first five months of 2007, before the intensification of the blockade.
The combination of access restrictions and the widespread destruction of homes and infrastructure during the ‘Cast Lead’ offensive in January 2009, together with population growth, have generated enormous housing and infrastructure needs. However, Israeli restrictions on building materials through Kerem Shalom allow only basic building materials for specific projects to be carried out by international organizations and supported by the PA, considered on an individual basis. In addition, many other items defined as ‘dual use’ by the Israeli authorities are banned completely.
As a result, only a fraction of identified needs have so far been addressed. COGAT cites a total of 176 approved internationally-financed projects since 2010, 99 of which were approved in 2011. OCHA can only provide conclusive data on UN recovery-construction projects in Gaza. Out of 126 pending approvals at the beginning of 2011 (US$ 326 million), 74 were approved (US$ 161 million). However, the UN programme of work began in 2010 and so needs to be analyzed from that date until the end of 2011. Accordingly, out of a total 175 projects / project components submitted for COGAT approval (USD 484 million), by the end of 2011, 113 had been approved (USD 359 million), 39 were still pending (USD 84 million) and 9 had been rejected (USD 40 million). Approvals took on average 6 months to be processed while pending approvals have been waiting on average more than a year.
The implementation of UN projects has been slowed down and expenses increased due to a multi-layered system of approvals regulating the entry of each individual consignment of materials and the limited capacity of the crossings: In 2011, UNRWA and UNDP alone spent US$ 2.3 million in addressing these regulations, the equivalent of building 50 housing units or construction a school for 2,000 children. By the end of 2011, projects worth a total USD 216 million, or 25 percent of the UN programme of work, were either pending Israeli approval and had been for an average 13 months, or had been rejected.
Since 2007, Israel has exceptionally allowed the export of a minimal amount of strawberries, flowers, peppers and tomatoes from Gaza to markets in Europe. While this is welcome, economic recovery can only occur if there is a significant rise in the volume and type of exports from Gaza to all available markets, including Israel and transfers to the West Bank and, which historically accounted for over 80 percent of Gaza’s exports. The high shipping costs associated with the double back-to-back transfer system utilized at Kerem Shalom also impede further exports.
Since June 2007, fewer than two truckloads of agricultural goods have left via Kerem Shalom per day during the harvest seasons, only a fraction of the average 19 daily export trucks over the course of 2006, prior to the blockade. As part of its December 2010 decision, an announcement was made to facilitate increased agricultural, furniture and textile exports from Gaza, beginning with international markets. Authorized exports in 2011 were only 269 truckloads of agricultural crops, a 25 percent
increase compared to 215 in 2010, but only 2.7 percent of the average monthly volume in the first half of 2007 (23 truckloads in 2011 compared with 847 in 2007) were permitted to leave Gaza for the West Bank, Israel and the outside world in 2011. No furniture or textile exports occurred in 2011 despite the policy change.
The tunnel economy
The imposition of import restrictions due to the blockade led to the proliferation of tunnels along Gaza's border with Egypt, used for the entry of goods otherwise unavailable or available at a higher price from Israel, such as construction materials, livestock, fuel, cash, and food products. With the easing of the blockade in June 2010, and the resumption of the import of most consumer goods and raw materials through the crossings with Israel, the number has decreased to approximately 200-300.
Most of the tunnels that remain operational have shifted to the transfer of construction materials, which are still restricted, or fuel, which is significantly cheaper in Egypt than in Israel, partially due to subsidies. The Palestinian Federation of Industries in Gaza estimates that some approximately 2.25 million tonnes of aggregate, cement and steel bars reached Gaza via the tunnels in 2011, compared to the approximately 600,000 tonnes of the same materials which entered through the Kerem Shalom crossing for authorized projects. Prices in Gaza for these materials are now on a par or even less than what they would cost coming from Israel.
Watch video about incidents in Gaza tunnels
|Incidents in Gaza Tunnels|
For further information see:
|Easing the blockade, OCHA, March 2011|