The World Bank said on Thursday that economic decline in Gaza has become too steep to be tackled by international aid and also requires that the enclave be allowed freer trade.
“The (Gaza) economy cannot survive without being connected to the outside world,” it said in a 46-page report quoted by Reuters.
“Any effort at economic recovery and development must address the impacts of the current closure regime,” it added.
Gaza’s economic growth plummeted from 8 percent in 2016 to 0.5 percent last year, with some half of the labor force unemployed and public health at risk from deteriorations in basic services like water and electricity, the World Bank said.
“In the long term, aid will not be able to provide the impetus for growth, nor can it reverse Gaza’s de-development,” it said, according to Reuters, urging that Palestinian exports from the enclave be stepped up and restrictions relaxed on “dual-use” imports - a reference to materials that might have military applications.
The report came a day after 20 other countries held a conference in Washington on potential remedies for Gaza’s crisis.
The White House said it presented “specific project ideas” that might be pursued at an international meeting on Gaza in Brussels on March 20.
The Washington conference was boycotted by the Palestinian Authority (PA), as PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas has refused to consider the Trump administration an honest broker for negotiations since Trump’s December declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Western officials often accuse Israel of imposing a “siege” on Gaza due to its naval blockade on the enclave, which is meant to prevent Hamas from acquiring weapons and bomb-making equipment.
Israel continues to regularly allow humanitarian aid and construction materials into Gaza, even though its terrorist rulers continue to attack southern Israel with rockets and openly threaten to destroy the Jewish state.
In 2015, Israeli authorities opened the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza and allowed 700 truckloads of goods to enter the region.
Gaza’s other border, with Egypt, is mostly kept closed as well. Egypt blames Hamas terrorists for providing the weapons for a lethal 2014 attack, which killed 30 soldiers, through one of its smuggling tunnels under the border to Sinai. Hamas denies the allegations.