The growing cost of living in the West Bank has urged Romel al-Swaiti, a Palestinian blogger from a village near Nablus, to devote his page on the internet to speak about the issue by publishing a comic picture of him going to work riding on a donkey.
He wrote on his page on the social website of Facebook that he was obliged to go to work from his house in the village of Howara to the city of Nablus, which is about 11 km away, by riding a donkey as an alternative to traveling by car or by bus due to the high cost of transportation in the West Bank.
The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) ministry of finance officially announced a new mount in the prices of fuel products starting from September. The decision has brought a strong wave of protests and criticism that coincided with growing complaints about the cost of living in the area.
The Palestinian Petrol Corporation of the ministry of finance announced that the price of cooking gas would grow 12 percent, gasoline 6.12 percent and diesel 2.9 percent. The bill of energy in the West Bank represents about a quarter of the Palestinian individuals' incomes, according to official statistics.
Palestinian markets are suffering from an actual monopoly regarding to the sources of import. Relying mainly on Israeli sources, the Palestinians pay Israel about 1.3 billion US dollars per year for the importation of energy products.
Swaiti, who showed a short video clip on his Facebook page of his riding a donkey with a bell on the way to work, told Xinhua that he meant to minimize his daily running expenses, and he did attract the attention of people in the city's streets, with taxi drivers greeting him by waving their hands and expressing full support and solidarity with him.
"It is a symbolic act to protest against the high cost of living, mainly in the prices of fuels, as well as against the growing burdens on the Palestinian people who always suffer without receiving any promotion in their salaries or in their income," said Swaiti.
Swaiti, a journalist, said he has double messages: the first is to the residents, telling them to reduce their daily transportation expenses to confront the growing burdens; and the second is to the Palestinian government, demanding it back the basic needed products to tackle the high living cost.
Earlier this week several West Bank cities witnessed popular protests against the high living cost, coinciding with a severe financial crisis the PNA is going through. Official estimations show that the PNA budget suffers from a shortage of more than 1 billion US dollars.
Mohamed Hamayel, a youth activist in Ramallah, said he and other young men are planning more popular protests to pressure on the government of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and the PNA to help the people in the West Bank face the "crazy high" living cost.
"The aim of the protests, in which demonstrators gather at the main square of al-Manara in Ramallah, is to send our voice to the outraged people who suffer from the high living cost," Hamayel told Xinhua, calling on the PNA for an initiative of dialogue with the people to overcome the crisis of high cost.
Young men in the West Bank are using funny banners to ridicule the high cost of living and the deteriorating financial conditions of the residents. One from Hebron in southern West Bank wrote on a banner: "5 shekels (1 US dollar equals 4 shekels) only left in my pocket and I bought this banner for it."
Websites such as Facebook were used by the Palestinian bloggers to criticize or ridicule the living situation in the Palestinian territories, mainly the high cost of living in the West Bank. Some Facebook pages are urging the government to help the people in confronting the crisis.
A group of bloggers published a picture of them on their Facebook page, called "Palestinian Young men and women to face high cost of living," while they were singing national songs and criticizing the high cost of living in the West Bank. The Facebook pages slam Fayyad's government and his policy.
Salah Haneya, chairman of the consumer association, said the crisis in the West Bank that has been going on for several months "is local." He told Xinhua that the government of Fayyad is to be blamed because it lacks control on the prices of the basic products.
Abdel Hafiz Nofal, director general of the PNA ministry of economy, told Voice of Palestine Radio on Monday that the government is about to declare a comprehensive plan that includes urgent solutions to confront the high cost of living.
Tareq al-Haj, a Palestinian analyst in economy, told Xinhua that the ability of the government's intervention in facing the ongoing crisis is limited, adding that the government basically suffers from a shortage in its budget and a difficulty in paying the salaries of its employees.
"The high cost of living is global, I believe, in this stage, and it is not only in the Palestinian territories, and this is due to the economic changes in the countries that produce the basic materials for living," he said, adding that "the Palestinian territories don't have other natural or agricultural sources."