Under the Auspices and in Presence of the Prime Minister Dr. Mohammad Shtayyeh, The Association of Palestinian Local Authorities Launches its Strategic Plan 2019-2022 which was held in presence of the Minister of Local Government Eng. Majdi Al-Saleh, President of APLA Eng. Musa Hadid, head of cooperation at the European Union Ms. Alessandra Viezzer, Deputy Head of the Netherlands Mission Ms. Floor Nuiten and over 300 mayor and council members of local authorities, members of APLA.
Shtayyeh: We are all partners in APLA’s strategic plan 2019-2022, and the power to collect property tax will be returned to municipalities.
In his speech at the launching ceremony, Prime Minister Dr. Mohammad Shtayyeh said “We are all partners in APLA’s strategic plan we are launching today. We are partners in the national efforts and in serving the public.” He also announced that to strengthen the budgets of municipalities, the collection of property tax will be returned to them instead of the ministry of finance. Moreover, a committee composed of the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Local Government, the Palestinian Energy and Natural Resources Authority and relevant stakeholders in order to prepare to clear between municipalities and the Ministry of Finance to ensure the balance of invoices between both parties. “We at the government are fully prepared to review all issues relating to the laws, taxes, and concerns in the best interest of the public. We are establishing a Palestinian state that is based on solid grounds. We are prepared to create a state of harmony with municipalities in service of the public,” Shtayyeh added.
On his part, APLA President Eng. Hadid said that the strategic plan builds on the efforts of all parties, particularly the Palestinian government, to create local governments that are better able to respond to the needs of Palestinians. The plan adds to the components of the local government sector to build local authorities that have better support and protection as well as greater transparency and integrity. It promotes the values of community participation and constrictive accountability. It opens new prospects for APLA as a sole representative of local authorities in Palestine to be the umbrella that represents the interests of its members and defends the interests and rights of local authorities.
Hadid: The law must clearly stipulate that the revenues of local authorities must be tax exempted. The delays from the Ministry of Finance in transferring the entitlements of local authorities must be addressed.
In his speech, Hadid noted that in the preparation of this strategy, APLA was keen on having its policies characterized by taking into account different needs in a manner that ensures empowerment of men, women, and youth, as well as creating appropriate circumstances that provide greater opportunities for women to access the decision making process at the local level as equals with men.
Hadid stated “Palestinian local authorities are national institutions performing pioneering roles in serving the public. They act on behalf of the central government in the performance of some tasks and duties. Local governments seek to increase their revenues and provide other sources of income in order to improve their ability to provide services to the public. Accordingly, it is unreasonable to treat local authorities as profitable institutions and add income tax to their revenues. Local authorities are a single unit, and the Income Tax Law must explicitly stipulate that the revenues of local authorities are tax exempted.”
Hadid noted that local authorities are suffering from the irregular transfers of their entitlements from the Ministry of Finance. He indicated that this issue is not the result of the recent financial crisis, but has rather been the case for many years. Local authorities depend greatly on the revenues collected by the Ministry of Finance on their behalf. The delay in transferring these funds impedes the work of local authorities. We are looking forward to continuing our work on implementing the transfer of property tax collection powers from the Ministry of Finance to local authorities.
Al-Saleh: APLA is a cornerstone in local governance in Palestine and a strategic partner of the ministry.
In his speech, the Minister of Local Government Eng. Al-Saleh highlighted the participatory relationship between APLA and the Ministry. He stated “this relation means that there is joint responsibility towards developing the local government sector, particularly the legal and legislative framework of the sector. This means that APLA needs to support local authorities in abiding by the relevant laws and regulations, promoting the principles of good governance, promoting community participation and combatting all forms of corruption, misuse of powers, or prejudice towards the interests of certain individuals or categories.”
Eng. Al-Saleh said “local authorities are the direct contact with the public. They meet their needs and provide them basic services on a daily basis. Ministries implement their programs through them. They also represent the local identity and community. In this context, APLA’s role is to promote the harmony and cohesion between the local identity and the national identity that represents the hopes and aspirations of the public.” He added, “We are working on building a decentralized system in managing local governance gradually and on the gradual transfer of powers to local authorities. Through our work with the government, we support the gradual transfer of the collection of property tax to local authorities. We will work together on transferring other powers based on the capacities of local authorities.”
Al-Saleh conveyed the Ministry’s keenness to work with APLA on a number of strategies and policies adopted by the ministry and aiming at opening new prospects and focusing the efforts and energy of local authorities on creativity in implementing modern and contemporary approaches. He clarified “such approaches include improving services provided to the public as part of the public responsibility of local authorities and opening the floor for local authorities to focus their energy on broader and more welcome areas and provide more services.”
The Head of Cooperation at the European Union Ms. Alessandra Viezzer praised APLA’s efforts in preparing this document. She stressed that the comprehensiveness and success of the plan are the results of numerous consultations by the executive office with all the relevant stakeholders in the local government sector in Palestine, at the local or international level. She clarified that the EU is greatly interested in the local government sector due to its belief in the integral role of local authorities and belief in APLA as an independent organization that represents the collective interests of local authorities and supports building their capacities. She also stressed in her speech on the EU’s fixed stance regarding the two-state solution.
The Deputy Head of Mission of the Netherlands Floor Nuiten stated, “we are proud of the partnership we have with APLA and are very pleased to be part of this success we are celebrating today in launching the strategic plan 2019-2022.” She added that extensive work is ahead of all stakeholders to contribute to the realization of the plan and making it a reality that supports the development of the local government sector in Palestine.
It is worth noting that this ceremony is part of different activities relating to APLA’s strategic plan 2019-2022. It is part of the "Area C Resilience development initiative "ARD" project", funded by the EU and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and in partnership with VNG international.