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What Palestinians will do with $7.4 billion

About 70 percent of the money from international donors will pay public salaries, while 30 percent is expected to be used for development, food relief, and other assistance.

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Union leader Bassem Hadaydeh says in this period of crisis since early 2006, PA officials dipped into and spent worker pensions.

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"The PA has already spent the retirement funds of all employees in order to keep itself going," says Mr. Hadaydeh, the spokesman of the Palestinian civil servants' union. "They're trying to retire large numbers of workers, but have no retirement funds to give them. How can they talk about that and not have the amount to pay us? This will be one of the points of conflict between the union and the government," he explains.

Meanwhile, the prices of everyday goods and transportation have gone up, specifically in the past few months, due to the drop in the dollar (on which most Palestinian salaries are based) and the rise in gasoline prices.

"All our demands are meant to make the performance more satisfactory. It is all connected to the degree to which the PA doesn't have integrity in the eyes of the people," adds Hadaydeh.

But now, he admits, Palestinians have a new sense that the PA has become more fiscally responsible, particularly since Salam Fayyad, now prime minister, became the Minister of Finance in 2003.

"The abuse of public money has decreased since Salam Fayyad [took office]. The monitoring of money to the PA has increased drastically," he says. "The modalities used in the transfer of money are complicated and transparent and have a technically oriented approach, which makes corruption difficult to come in."

Samir Barghouthi, an economist who runs a Ramallah investment firm, says that of the amount of aid pledged, approximately 70 percent of the amount will go to public salaries and 30 percent will go to development projects, food relief, and assistance – especially to Gazans.

The biggest problem, he says, is indeed the bloated PA payroll. "There are many thousands of public sector employees who are not working. Some are living in Jordan or Egypt, some work from home, some work in the private sector but still take a salary from the government. There are people who are not even showing up in work because there isn't something to do," says Mr. Barghouthi.

He suggests the PA needs to push ahead with offering a retirement program, perhaps giving incentives by offering highly subsidized loans for people to start businesses.

"The Paris aid is just a mechanism to help people survive, which means after three years, when those monies are spent, we have to face the problem again, and in another three years," he says. "We should use this commitment to push for deep restructuring."

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