GENEVA – The cumulative economic cost from 2007–2018 of the Israeli occupation on the Palestinian city of Gaza, which has one of the world's highest unemployment rates with more than half its population living below the poverty line, is estimated at $16.7 billion, a UN report said Wednesday.
The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) released the report titled "Economic costs of the Israeli occupation for the Palestinian people: The Gaza Strip under closure and restrictions,” which focused on the costs only from the prolonged closure and military operations in Gaza during the period.
It estimates the cost to be six times Gaza's GDP in 2018 or 107% of the total Palestinian GDP.
The report projects that Gaza's poverty rate in 2017 could have been 15% without the closure and military operations -- more than a quarter of the current 56%.
The poverty gap could have been 4.2%, one-fifth of the current 20%.
Since the Palestinian resistance group Hamas took control of Gaza in June 2007, 2 million Palestinians have been under a prolonged Israeli closure and severe economic and movement restrictions that amount to a blockade in the 365 square kilometer (141 square mile) area, said the report.
Moreover, the Gaza Strip has been the subject of three major rounds of military hostilities since 2008.
"The result is the near-collapse of the regional Gaza economy while trade is severely restricted from the rest of the Palestinian economy and the world,” it said.
Between 2007 and 2017, Gaza's poverty rate increased from 40% to 56%, the poverty gap increased from 14% to 20% and the annual minimum cost of eliminating poverty quadrupled from $209 million to $838 million (constant 2015 USD).
"The thing about Gaza is the entire economy is informal," said Richard Kozul-Wright, who heads UNCTAD's division on globalization and development strategies.
He said this was exacerbated by the nature of the blockade on Gaza by Israel and "periodic military interventions."
"Informality is a way of life. It's not just a way in which the economy works. And that makes it incredibly difficult for any government to be able to intervene and shift the needle in some way," said Kozul-Wright.
The report stresses the urgent need to end Gaza's closure so that its people can freely trade with the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory and the world.
If Gaza's share of the occupied Palestinian territory's economy remained the same as in 2006, Gaza's GDP would have been 50% higher than its actual size.
Mahmoud Elkhafif, UNCTAD's coordinator of assistance to the Palestinian People, said the report provides recommendations to put Gaza back on track towards sustainable development.
"These include the complete lifting of restrictions on access and movement with the West Bank and the rest of the world.
"It also recommends the complete unlocking of Gaza's economic potential by investing in and building seaports and airports, water and electricity projects," said Elkhafif.
The Palestinian government should also be enabled to develop the oil and natural gas resources off the shore of Gaza, said the report.