Solar Energy & Water: Japan Shows the Way

The construction of new power and water plants, never mind wastewater schemes, may not be glamorous, but it is vital to the development of any country, especially one like Palestine whose people are struggling with living under occupation as well as with a lack of finance. When such projects are linked to sustainability and the use of low-maintenance, renewable energy sources, they can do even more to promote what the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) –Japan’s foreign aid organisation– calls “human security.” And that’s something that could benefit Palestinians living in Jordan and the neighbouring countries, as well in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
A Japanese engineer supervising the installation of solar panels at the Jericho Agro-Industrial Park.

At first glance, the construction site for a new solar electricity generation system just outside Jericho in the West Bank looks like a low-lying maze of horizontal steel beams stretching across an otherwise empty tract of sand to the administrative buildings of a new industrial zone – JAIP – that JICA is building nearby. (See Jericho Agro-Industrial Park, below.) But, if all goes well, by next year it should be providing much-needed power for Jericho city, as well as for the new factories in the Park. Continue reading

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Jericho Agro-Industrial Park: Bringing State-of-the-Art Industry to the World’s Oldest City

Jericho is reputedly the world’s most ancient, continuously inhabited city, its fortified walls dating back 10,000 years. Today it is a haven of self-rule in central Palestine and a mecca for residents in the West Bank seeking a respite from their political and economic woes, as well as for some 700,000 tourists a year who visit the area’s famed biblical and Islamic sites.

But on a 10-minute drive out-of-town, the vibrant streets, palm trees and market stalls filled with the lush produce of the Jordan Valley give way to the desert. It’s hard to believe that in the space of a few months, 11.5 hectares of rocky soil and flat, dry terrain will give way to an industrial zone of processing plants and modern factories capable of exporting the region’s high quality agricultural products to nearby Jordan and onward to lucrative markets in the Arab Gulf states and the European Union.

It is just one of three such zones—along with others in Bethlehem and Jenin—planned by the Palestinian Industrial Estates and Free Zones Authority (PIEFZA) to help increase jobs and opportunities for small- and medium-sized enterprises, as well as export earnings. If successful—and there are many “ifs” given Israel’s control of the surrounding region, the pioneering Jericho project, known as the Jericho Agro-Industrial Park (JAIP), could prove to be a boon to private and foreign investment, particularly from Palestinian and Arab entrepreneurs in the diaspora. Continue reading

Palestine Stock Exchange Plans New Offerings

PEX, the Palestinian Securities Exchange, plans to offer a total of 25 per cent of its shares to the public this year, the CEO of the Palestine Development and Investment Company (PADICO), Samir Huleileh, confirmed on 4th April. He was speaking on the day the Exchange made its market debut in Nablus, becoming only the second exchange in the Arab world – after the Dubai Financial Market—to be publicly listed. By the close, 140,000 shares had changed hands at a price of $5.07, $0.13 below their offer value, which represented a 420 per cent increase on their par value. The sale raised $680,000, PEX officials reported.

The offer, which consisted of a 1.7 per cent stake, raised the number of companies listed on the Exchange to 47 and its combined market capitalisation to about $2.9 billion. The services sector dominates the listings, followed by banking and finance, investment, industry and insurance. PEX’s paid-up capital amounts to $10 million.

CEO Ahmad Aweidah is "cautiously optimistic."

Trading volume on the Exchange fell to about 15.3 million shares in March, after averaging 16 million in both January and February and about 15.4 million during last year. On 4th April, the Al Quds index closed at 486.14, near its high for the year, which was reached on 8th January. Continue reading

Editor’s Note

Spring has arrived for many of us, not least for Palestine, where the hills of the West Bank are breaking out in ever more patches of green and lavender – as I saw on my trip there last week.

I’ll be writing about that and about some of the projects I visited in Jericho, Ramallah, Jerusalem and Jordan, thanks to JICA, the Japan International Co-operation Agency.

Other stories coming up this April include:

• The Jericho Agro-Industrial Park and its use of solar energy;

• The Palestine Stock Exchange and its IPO;

• The UK’s new ICT initiative;

• PalTrade’s plans to promote exports.

Palestine’s first delegation to the Olympics, Atlanta, 1996; Reuters

Last, but not least, we’ll be highlighting the progress of four world-class athletes from the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem as they prepare to fly the flag for Palestine at the Olympics here in London in July.

Thanks for looking!

— Pam