Critics say the recently passed social security law is unfair, the result of a presidential fiat, and applied in a situation far from stable
Ever since the Palestinian Authority (PA) passed a law establishing the Palestinian Social Security Corporation last year, many within the Palestinian community have resisted it. They have argued that it is unfair given that it was passed without a proper legislative process in an already unstable environment.
One group, the National Social Security movement (NSSM), which has spearheaded popular opposition to the law, considers it deeply flawed.
According to NSSM, the new law is a “disaster” and was prepared in a “dark room,” referring to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to approve the law by presidential decree only four days after he informed the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), an institution which since 2007 has been largely defunct and only symbolic in nature.
“Currently, Palestinian laws are enacted through presidential decrees,” Hanna Issa, a Palestinian political analyst, told The Media Line. “Normally, Palestinian society would be governed by the ‘Amended Basic Laws’ [laws enacted by the PLC]. However, these rules have not applied since the PLC lost its primary role in the legislative process.
“Since the Hamas-orchestrated coup in 2006 [which forcibly evicted Abbas’ Fatah faction from the Gaza Strip], Abbas has been in charge of all regulations. This will be the case until new elections are held.”
Issa noted that the PLC, when or if it re-convenes, would be tasked with reviewing all presidential decrees. Notably, the PLC legislated 90 laws between its establishment in 1996 and it’s shuttering a decade later, whereas Abbas unilaterally enacted over 100 laws between 2007 and 2016.
“The social consequences of the new law will be dire for Palestine,” Mahmoud al-Dababseh, a member of the NSSM, contended to The Media Line.
He explained that the terms of the new law must be revisited and rethought based on how it will impact Palestinian society. “When the new law takes away the right of Palestinian widows to inherit the pensions of their deceased husbands, it asks them indirectly never to ever get married again,” al-Dababseh said.
“And when it prohibits Palestinian orphans from obtaining their parents’ inherited pension once they finish university, it asks them indirectly to never graduate from college.” With these issues in mind, he added that the NSSM is calling on the PA to restudy the social security law and its long-term effects on Palestinian society.
“It also has devastating effects on Palestinian trade,” al-Dababseh explained, noting that withdrawing money from the economy to fund the social security program will likely create a recession. “Our economy is already hurting and can’t tolerate such move,” he asserted.
He pointed to the private-sector and how the social security law stipulates that one can receive benefits starting at age 60.
“What if employees suddenly lose their jobs at the age of 30? What are they supposed to do?” al-Dababseh asked. “Palestinian citizens should be able to use these funds before the designated age in case of the sudden interruption of work.”
Jalal, a governmental employee who did not want to reveal his last name, told The Media Line, “I will not be affected by the new law as I will get a government pension at the end of my service with or without it.
“The question remains: How can the government dare to pass such a law, while its future is unknown and our political situation is unstable,” he added.
Jalal stressed that the main issue is a lack of trust between Palestinians and their own government. “The PA can’t legislate laws as it is not a legitimate government to begin with.”
He therefore called on the PA should to holding elections so the PLC can resume its duties and legislate laws on the basis of democratic principles. “We simply don’t trust the PA, with this law and other matters.”
Jeries Rayan, a Palestinian business owner, told The Media Line that any social security fund needs a guarantor, and the political and economic situation does not indicate stability.
“I’m not against the concept of having a social security law, but Palestine isn’t an independent state yet. The PA has to postpone it until the situation is better,” he elaborated.
Echoing other critics of the law, Rayan added that the Palestinians lack trust in the PA, alleging that corruption and nepotism are rampant in its departments. “The government has to know that there are rights and duties for its citizens; our government wants to take and not give back.”
Earlier this week, Maamoun Abu Shahla, the Palestinian Minister of Labor, told human rights advocates and civil society organizations that the new social security law “wasn’t the result of after one hour,” but was formulated following consideration of all its terms.
He confirmed that the new law will be implemented starting in November.
Abu Shahla stated that the social security law is a purely national project to stabilize the lives of Palestinians in their homeland, strengthening their steadfastness and ensuring them a decent life.