A Talk With Prime Minister Fayyad

By Lally Weymouth
Monday, May 12, 2008

Lally Weymouth also spoke with Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad in Ramallah.

Excerpts:

Q. Did you [think] it was possible to do anything with [Yasser] Arafat?

A. There is hardly anything I did here that was easy. Changing the way business is done in finance in the PA was not easy. You just didn't know where to begin.

Was it possible to do anything with the PA?

Yes, it was. This is fairly well documented. We did quite a few things in a relatively short period of time.

So what did you decide to do?

I knew what was wrong with the system. I wanted to get the basics right. And that's what I focused on. Having one treasury, one financial address for the PA, not several different centers for sending money. Revenues had to go to one place.

How did Arafat accept that idea?

He was accepting of it. Most of the fundamental reforms that were essential for getting the system right . . . happened in my first term as finance minister. They were pretty much done by 2005. . . . We started to do things right and also have one treasury . . . one financial address for the PA. . . . Donors confidence started to rise. They started to send us money directly. The system became transparent. We launched a Web site on which we posted our budget.

The PA was supposed to be so corrupt.

Yes, reform isn't without opposition, of course. You do what you can in situations like this. You move as fast as you possibly can. The program started to acquire a reputation of its own. But then I had the backing. I began to develop a constituency. Then last June there was the violent takeover of Gaza.


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