RAMALLAH, August 14 (JMCC) - The Israeli electricity supplier has warned Palestinians that if they don't pay about $165 million in debt, it will start to impose blackouts on the West Bank, reports the Jerusalem Post
About one-third of that money is owed by the Palestinian Authority, which is facing a severe economic shortfall due to a lack of donor funding and other budget pressures.
Hisham Omari, CEO of the Jerusalem District Electricity Company (JDECO), said he received a letter from the IEC early on Tuesday afternoon, noting that his company alone owes the Israeli firm NIS 423 million.
Should the Palestinian energy supplier not comply, the IEC would implement scattered, temporary outages in areas within JDECO’s jurisdiction – such as east Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah and Jericho – as well as freeze the company’s assets in Jerusalem, Omari told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
In addition, if the areas need an increased electricity supply or new, expanded transmission lines, the IEC would reject any such request, he explained, quoting the letter.
“Every year, we have an increase in consumption of 5- 10 percent, so we ask the Israeli company to increase its connections with us,” Omari said.
While NIS 432 million of the total NIS 662 million in debt comes from within JDECO’s supply region, the remaining NIS 239 million is from a combination of the Gaza Strip and areas in the northern and southern West Bank that fall outside JDECO’s realm and should come directly from the Palestinian Authority, an IEC spokeswoman told the Post.
For his company’s enormous debt, Omari largely blames both refugee camp residents who refuse to pay their electricity bills and government bodies that have likewise faltered on payments.
Within JDECO’s jurisdiction, there are about 12 refugee camps. Only about 5% of the residents of these camps actually pay their electricity bills, however, and “there is a big amount of electricity theft there and also in the villages,” according to Omari.
Electricity theft is particularly rampant in villages within Area C, where no Palestinian police force exists to patrol burglar activity, he explained.
Meanwhile, the PA itself owes JDECO NIS 120 million for electricity bills in various government buildings, schools, hospitals and water-pumping stations that it has failed to pay.
“They suffer financially – they are not in good shape,” Omari said. “Even this month, they are only paying 60% of the salaries to their employees. This means that all employees might not be able to pay electricity bills.”