The Happy Arab News Service

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Salam Fayyad

The man whose name I mentioned in this discussion as possibly the Palestinian version of sanity is back to hold the post of finance minister in the joint Palestinian government. Fayyad said he is taking the post worried that international sanctions are destroying his main achievement - the unified in one account Palestinian Public finances.

"I have nothing but to try and to work hard to lift the sanctions," Fayyad, who looks like a banker in elegant suits and ties, said in an interview in his office in Ramallah.

Fayyad, who spent 15 years in the U.S. and first entered Palestinian politics in 2002 with his appointment as Arafat's finance minister, is widely seen as a determined reformer.

However, some critics say Fayyad did too little to go after those who stole public funds in the Arafat era.

"Salam Fayyad consolidated all Palestinian governmental investments, but he did not tell us about the history of these investments," said Nasser Abdelkarimm, an economist at Bir Zeit University. (Maybe he was trying to combine the process of reforms with staying alive ?? just wondering . . . NB)

Fayyad says he was focused on making improvements at the Palestinian Treasury at the time, and hoped the guilty would eventually be put on trial.

Surprisingly, according to an AP reporter, despite the sanctions the foreign aid to the PA not only did not stop but actually went up last year:

. . . it even went up, from $1 billion in 2005 to more than $1.2 billion in 2006. (And we've been wondering where the Hamas was getting money to arm its military wing all the time. NB)

But it comes via different ways bypassing the Treasury.

Fayyad said that he won't tolerate channels that circumvent the Treasury such as Hamas cross border cash smuggling.

"I will not allow having different channels of revenues and expenditures," he said. "I will not allow anyone to sabotage the modern system we built."

Salam Fayyad declined the previous invitation from Hamas government to take the post on the grounds that the government should first meet the demands of the international community and recognize Israel. The demand is still not really met but Fayyad accepted the invitation in line with his support for the unity government as a way to prevent a civil war and to remove the international sanctions that devastated the Palestinian economy and undermined the reforms initiated under Fayyad before the last elections.

Here is the man and his views as outlined by the AP reporter:

Fayyad was born in the northern West Bank village of Deir Al-Ghassoun. He holds an M.A. in accounting and a doctorate in economics from the University of Texas at Austin. He taught at Yarmouk University in Jordan before joining the IMF.

He worked briefly for the Arab Bank before being named finance minister by Arafat in 2002. Unlike other government officials of that era, he did not live lavishly. He drives a second hand Mercedes, moving around with bodyguards after shots were fired at this office earlier this year. (!!! NB)

After leaving the Treasury last year, he set up an economic think tank. He also founded a small party, "The Third Way," and won a parliament seat in the January 2006 election that swept Hamas to power. (It's even less than I thought. NB)

Even when not in power, Fayyad is routinely sought out by visiting U.S. and European leaders, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Such meetings can be problematic in a region where anti-U.S. sentiment runs high over America's perceived pro-Israel bias.

Fayyad defended his close ties, saying "the relationship with the West is a Palestinian interest first." (I am sure most Palestinians were absolutely satisfied with such an explanation. :D NB)

He also told a recent academic conference in Israel that he is committed to a "warm peace with Israel" and would seek strong economic ties between Israel and an independent Palestine. (And I bet this one the Palos loved even more. NB)

At the same time, Fayyad said he is committed to joining forces with the Islamic militant Hamas, regarded by the West as a terrorist group. A Hamas-Fatah coalition, he said, is the only way to stop the bloody internal fighting that has killed nearly 140 Palestinians since May.


Sadly, while for Fayyad preventing further fratricide in Gaza and lifting the sanctions that are starving his people en mass is the first priority to the point of accepting a unity deal with Hamas, I am not sure this is true when it comes to Israeli interests. I am sure it's not. Israel should not let Hamas get away with its recent military build-up. Nevertheless, for those who've been wondering why there are no normal and sane people among the Palestinians, here is the man:

Salam Fayyad

Secular and a free market economist, West oriented and not denying it, seeking economic integration and warm peace with Israel.

No wonder his Third Way has got only one seat in their parliament.


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