Fayyad loses treasury post
Published Wednesday 16/05/2012 (updated) 27/05/2012 00:04
Salam Fayyad takes the oath in front of President Mahmoud Abbas as the last
cabinet was sworn in in May 2009 (Abbas Momani/Getty Images, File)
RAMALLAH (Reuters) -- Palestinian Authority premier Salam Fayyad lost his dual role as finance minister in a government reshuffle on Wednesday, officials said.
Fayyad was supported by the West for rare fiscal responsibility in the corruption-plagued and donor-dependent economy.
Although he is relinquishing the treasury portfolio, he will retain his main role in the shakeup of the government that comes amid deadlock with Hamas over a still-unimplemented unity deal.
Nabil Qassis, a former university president who like Fayyad is a political independent, will take over as finance minister. He will have to deal with fiscal challenges posed by a steady decline in donor funds and by Israeli trade restrictions.
The Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, is relying on foreign aid to cover a 2012 budget projected to reach $1.3 billion.
An International Monetary Fund report in March estimated a financing gap of about $500 million and urged donors to make good on pledges that allow the Palestinian Authority to pay public worker salaries. Most of the aid comes from the European Union, the United States and Arab countries.
Amid the crisis, the government has been serving in a caretaker capacity since resigning last February after President Mahmoud Abbas signed a unity deal in Doha with Hamas and announced new elections would be held within months.
But the accord with Hamas ran into trouble over the composition of a unity government and is now effectively frozen.
"The legislative and executive system have been paralyzed," Abbas told a news conference in Ramallah, the West Bank city where seven new ministers were sworn in later in the day.
He said the incoming government "will be dismissed immediately" if the political partnership with Hamas is consummated.
A source close to Fayyad said financial policies promoted by the former World Bank economist "have led to negative results", including mounting debt. "Hopefully a change in policies will get us out of our crisis," the source said.
Analysts said that Qassis was likely to be accepted by Western donors because he is not affiliated with either Fatah or Hamas and is respected by both Fayyad and Abbas.
Fayyad ran up against public opposition when he proposed austerity measures to tackle the debt crisis. That plan was never put into motion, but his raising of income tax rates also stirred discontent.
Nonetheless, Fayyad has won praise from the IMF for his efforts to ready institutions for future statehood.