A Very Unhappy New Year

Despite the Palestinian Stock Exchange surpassing all others in the Arab world last year, the dawn of 2016 in the West Bank brought somber news:  the death toll of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in East Jerusalem and the West Bank since October had risen to 142.  Another 15,000 had been injured, many of them seriously.

Many Israelis, too, now live in constant fear, even though their own dead and injured are a fraction of those killed “on the other side.”  No end is in sight, not least because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fragile coalition government is dependent on the most extreme Israeli settler movements, who regard occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank as their own.

Al Aqsa Mosque, East Jerusalem, October 2015.  Credit:  EPA

Al Aqsa Mosque, East Jerusalem, October 2015. Credit: EPA

Measures by the World Bank and the Quartet–the body which represents the US, the EU, Russia and the UN–to focus on the development of the private sector in the West Bank, and the need to alleviate the very high levels of unemployment, give a ray of hope, as does the EU’s ruling last year on the labelling of produce from the Palestinian territories. But recent efforts by Tel Aviv to bolster the Palestinian economy with long overdue measures, such as giving 3G spectrum licenses to Palestinian telecoms firms at a time when 4G is standard, only confirm the pessimism of many in Ramallah, Jericho, Hebron, Bethlehem and Nablus, never mind Gaza City and Khan Younis, as well as East Jerusalem.  They increasingly doubt that the international community is willing to take the tough moves needed to change the rapidly deteriorating situation on the ground.

Now, more than ever, the impressive and growing solidarity of Palestine’s grass roots supporters around the world, combined with the faith and confidence of its investors and benefactors, especially in the diaspora, is needed.

We’ll be keeping tabs on all this, and, after a hiatus in 2015, we’ll again be giving you the news and insights you need on Palestine’s economy, including its vital political dimension.  Stay tuned…. and,

A Very Happy 2016,

from all of us here at InvestPalestine.

Pam

© Pamela Ann Smith

This is a publication of investpalestine.wordpress.com and is protected by international copyright laws. This article is for the reader’s personal use only, but may be re-distributed electronically with a credit to investpalestine.com.

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The Palestinian Economy: What Next?

Contrary to what many in the US or Europe might expect, Palestine’s economic prospects in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem may be better off after the end of the nine-month-long ‘peace’ talks involving US Secretary of State John Kerry and Tony Blair, the Middle East envoy for the EU, the US, the UN and Russia. For starters, the rapprochement between the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and Hamas in Gaza could open the way to the long delayed exploration of the offshore Gaza oil and gas fields in the Mediterranean. Plus the agreement, announced last December, to build a new power plant in Jenin, in the West Bank, also powered by Mediterranean gas, will, at last, go ahead.

The West Bank will now get its own power plant, built by the Palestinian Power Generation Company (PPGC). reducing Palestine's dependence on Israeli electricity supplies.   Photo:  Palden Jenkins.  paldywan.blogspot.co.uk.

The West Bank will now get its own power plant, built by the Palestinian Power Generation Company (PPGC), reducing Palestine’s dependence on Israeli electricity supplies. Photo: Palden Jenkins. paldywan.blogspot.co.uk.

Al Mashtal, the 5-star luxury hotel on Gaza's Mediterranean seafront is expected to get a huge boost this summer from visitors from the Gulf states and Egypt, as well as Europe.  Christopher Furlong - AFP/Getty Images)

Al Mashtal, the 5-star luxury hotel on Gaza’s Mediterranean seafront is expected to get a huge boost this summer from visitors from the Gulf states and Egypt, as well as Europe. Christopher Furlong – AFP/Getty Images)

The publication in the past few weeks of Tony Blair and the Quartet’s Initiative for the Palestinian Economy (IPE), Beyond Aid, — a forward looking development plan for the private sector sponsored by Palestinian corporates, including PalTel, PADICO and the Bank of Palestine, plus the announcement at the World Economic Forum last year of a joint Palestinian-Israeli initiative, Breaking the Impasse, to link the most innovative private sector businesses on both sides of the divide, has already set the stage, and stretched the possibilities, for much more foreign and private sector direct investment, despite the Israeli recalcitrance. So, while share prices on the Palestinian Stock Exhange have suffered significant declines in April, foreign institutional investors have been buoyed by announcements of impressive dividends from the Exchange’s leading companies. The Bank of Palestine, for example, on 25 April agreed to distribute 8.33 per cent cash dividends and 6.66 per cent stock dividends for the year 2014. Paid up capital increased by $160 million. PalTel, another leading company on the Exchange, reported net income up by 12 per cent in the first quarter, despite the lack of progress in the ‘peace’ talks.

The Consolidated Contractors Company, founded in Beirut in 1952,  is one of the Palestinian Diaspora's most successful companies, ranking among the top 20 international contractors in the world.  It is now investing heavily in the West Bank and in Gaza.

The Consolidated Contractors Company, founded in Beirut in 1952, is one of the Palestinian Diaspora’s most successful companies, ranking among the top 20 international contractors in the world. It is now investing heavily in the West Bank and in Gaza.

We’ll be reporting on all this in May, plus the dilemmas now facing key donors to the Palestinian Authority, including the EU, the US, Japan and the Arab countries. And, of course, we’ll be tracking the budget crunch that the PA can expect as a result of Netanyahu’s squeeze on its custom revenues. As always, watch this space. And, thanks for reading, Pam © Pamela Ann Smith This is a publication of investpalestine.wordpress.com and is protected by international copyright laws. This article is for the reader’s personal use only, but may be re-distributed electronically with a credit to investpalestine.com.

London Welcomes Palestinian Businesses

The CEOs and senior executives of some of Palestine’s most successful companies are in London tonight to promote the benefits of investment and trade with the private sector in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

We’ll be reporting more on their visit, which has been organised by The Palestine Trade Centre (PalTrade) and the excitement here that has greeted their upgrades by such prestigious international ratings agencies as S & P and, soon to be confirmed, their inclusion in the all-important “Frontier” markets of the FTSE and MSCI.

Ahmad Aweidah, CEO of PEX, and Ammar Aker, CEO of Paltel, open the London Stock Exchange on 24 June, 2011.

Ahmad Aweidah, CEO of PEX, and Ammar Aker, CEO of Paltel, open the London Stock Exchange on 24 June, 2011.

And that’s not to mention that some of them may also be listed on the London Stock Exchange in the future…a welcome tribute to their success on the Palestine Stock Exchange (PEX), not so much for their share price rises but for the impressive dividends they have paid internationally despite all the adversities they have faced, and continue to face, as well as for their remarkable p/e ratios.

Bank Of Palestine Sponsors The Events Of The World Cup In Palestine.  It's also helping to promote small- and medium-sized businesses in Palestine, especially for women.

Bank Of Palestine Sponsors “The Events Of The World Cup In Palestine.” It’s also helping to promote small- and medium-sized businesses in Palestine, especially for women.

Most importantly, we’ll also be reporting on the vital work companies such as the Bank of Palestine, PalTel and Padico do in supporting social entrepreneurship, sustainable development, the creative arts and scholarships to study abroad, as well as the more traditional charities, in the occupied territories.

Their role, given the hoped-for relaxation of Israeli restrictions on checkpoints, internal and external travel, shipments and communications and on the use of the agricultural riches of the Jordan Valley and “Area C”, could be immense in helping to reduce Palestinian unemployment and increasing the productive output, and exports, of the territories.

And that’s something that the USA, the UK and the European Union are eager to see, given the increased sympathy their publics have for Palestinian rights, as well as the growing reluctance of their taxpayers to provide unending foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah when an end to the Israeli occupation could make Palestine self-sufficient.

Watch this space,

Thanks for reading,

Pam

© Pamela Ann Smith

This is a publication of investpalestine.wordpress.com and is protected by international copyright laws. This article is for the reader’s personal use only, but may be re-distributed electronically with a credit to investpalestine.com.

Changing Fortunes for Palestine’s Economy?

InvestPalestine.com was busy in June preparing a Special Report which has now appeared in the July issue of the London-based, pan-Arab monthly, The Middle East.TME Cover July '13

Here’s a preview:

Critical Times for Palestine’s Economy

The hopes and aspirations of millions of young Palestinians, both in the occupied territories and in the refugee camps of Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and elsewhere, as well as those of their older relatives and families both at home and in the Diaspora, could well be at stake in the coming weeks as US Secretary of State John Kerry seeks to convince Israel, as well as the Palestinian Authority, to return to the negotiating table and finally agree to accept the need for a sovereign Palestinian state.

Will there be peace for the next generation? Photo:  Eva Bartlett, http://ingaza.wordpress.com.

Will there be peace for the next generation? Photo: Eva Bartlett, http://ingaza.wordpress.com.

While many in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, as elsewhere, are justifiably extremely skeptical about Kerry’s plans to restart the moribund “peace talks,” Palestine’s business leaders, along with some of Israel’s most progressive entrepreneurs, have welcomed his initiative, as have future leaders like the imprisoned Marwan Barghouthi, seeing it as the only way to end the decades-old conflict and ensure a viable future for the next generation.

Gaza: Dubai on the Mediterranean?

To most people around the world, the word ‘Gaza’ conjures up images of rockets and bombs, wars, poverty and invasion, never mind the appalling conditions in which many of its residents live as a result of the ongoing Israeli blockade. But, as one international commentator suggested recently, it’s not, actually, too fanciful to see it in the future as the Mediterranean’s “Dubai.” While of course that assumes that peace prevails and that the Israeli siege ends, it also recalls Gaza’s historic role as a prosperous gateway between Africa and Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

 Gaza's five-star Al Mashtal Hotel on the beach front shows the potential for luxury tourism to appeal to visitors from Europe, Asia and Africa.  Photo:  Christopher Furlong, AFP/Getty.

Gaza's five-star Al Mashtal Hotel on the beach front shows the potential for luxury tourism to appeal to visitors from Europe, Asia and Africa. Photo: Christopher Furlong, AFP/Getty.

Developing East Jerusalem?

Efforts to help the beleaguered 375,000 inhabitants of Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem – which Palestinians see as the future capital of their state – are intensifying because of renewed efforts by Palestinian businessmen and promises of some $1 billion in aid from the Arab League, of which $250 million has already been pledged by Qatar. The plans include the construction of a new airport in the city, a project which was first mooted in 2009 by the former Palestinian Prime Minister, Salah Fayyad, as well as incentives to both local and foreign investors in the fields of finance, trade, transport, tourism, real estate and housing, private education and information communications and technology (ICT).

The articles will be published in full here at the end of July.

Meanwhile, check out http://www.themiddleastmagazine.com, or get the printed edition at your local news agent or newstand.

As always, thanks for reading!

Pam

Editor’s Note: Elections, elections, elections! … and Resistance!

InvestPalestine took a brief mini-break this month to consider new directions for this website, given the declining outlook for the Palestinian economy since this blog was first set up in June, 2011, as well as the recent turmoil on the ground in Palestine. Here’s a few thought-provoking articles we came across that we’d like to share with you about the current situation.

Samer Abdelnour, writing for the Palestinian policy think tank, Al Shabaka, along with Alaa Tartir and Rami Zuraykh, outlines a new approach for the country’s vital agricultural sector that combines investment and development with fostering resistance to the occupation. It’s worth reading, even if just the “Overview” and “The Culture of the Land,” if your time is short.

http://al-shabaka.org/policy-brief/economic-issues/farming-palestine-freedom?page=show

Palestine's produce is renowned, but its farmers are overwhelmed by Israeli imports.  Photo:  The Gaza Kitchen,  by Laila El-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt.

Palestine’s produce is renowned, but its farmers are overwhelmed by Israeli imports. Photo: The Gaza Kitchen, by Laila El-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt.

Asmaa Al-Ghoul, writing in Al Monitor.com, outlines the movement for a “third party” in the forthcoming elections that would challenge both Fatah and Hamas. It’s the kind of thing that has happened in many parts of the Arab world recently, not to mention places like Italy, Greece and Spain. It’s premise: more democracy, that goes beyond the usual partisan politics, is needed.
http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/02/third-party-palestine.html

A Palestinian Updates his Voter Registration in Gaza, 11 February, 2013. Photo: Reuters  (Ibraheem Abu Mustafa).

Palestinians registering to vote in Gaza, 11 February, 2013. Photo: Reuters (Ibraheem Abu Mustafa).


And finally, here’s an authoritative poll that shows what many Palestinians really want: elections!
http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=304086

In other words, no economy exists in a vacuum. It’s also about politics, i.e. political economy. And, in the case of Palestine, that means empowering the Palestinian people, wherever they are.

As always, thanks for reading!

Pam

P.S. Please cut and paste the URLs into your browser. Next time we hope to be able to create direct links … apologies for the hassle!

Palestine’s Economy: Bright Prospects for the Private Sector

Whatever the state of ‘peace talks’ to end the Israeli occupation and create an independent Palestinian state, or of protests in the West Bank, the coming months and years are likely to see a renewed focus on the private sector economy in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Investment —- from Palestinians in the diaspora, private Arab funds and foreign corporations, as well as from important ‘donors,’ such as the World Bank, the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the UK, the European Union, Japan and Canada — is increasing, reflecting the sector’s remarkable resilience in the past few years, and its huge potential in the medium-term.

Expotech runs from 6 to 11 October in Ramallah andGaza. Graphic: PITA, in the October issue of The Middle East magazine.

Expanding and developing it further is now also seen as crucial to stemming unemployment and rising prices, particularly among the youth in Palestine. This would also help to make the economy less dependent on Israel and foreign aid. Continue reading

Palestine’s Agriculture and Agro-Industries: The Basis for a Resurgent Economy?

A series of recent studies from the UN, the World Bank, the UK, France and the European Union, as well as other international organisations, has highlighted the huge potential of agriculture and fishing in the West Bank and Gaza and the extremely important contribution a revived sector could provide to both Palestine’s GDP and the urgent need to create new jobs, especially for the young and in the rural areas.

Palestine’s Jordan Valley is one of the world’s richest, and most diverse, agricultural areas. Picture: JICA

At present, all the reports emphasize that the escalation of Israeli settlements, particularly in the fertile Jordan Valley; Israeli military control of ‘Area C;’ and the rapidly dwindling amount of water available to Palestinian farmers has led to a sharp decline in both cultivation and output. Fishing and fish processing in Gaza is also stagnating, they add, due to the harsh Israeli restrictions, both onshore and offshore. Continue reading

$ 55 Million for Palestine’s Private Sector

While the international media has been highlighting the acute financial crisis facing the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, Palestine’s donors have been quietly, behind the scenes, shifting their focus to promoting the private sector. While their new priorities do not exclude immediate cash transfers to the ailing interim government in the occupied territorites to prevent its collapse, their latest funding programmes, which include $55 million from the World Bank and its affiliates over the next two years, emphasise the vital role that private companies and employers could play in helping to reduce Palestine’s dependence on foreign aid, and in creating jobs.

The Minister of Economy, Jawad Naji, is working with the World Bank to promote Palestinian companies and Palestine’s international competitiveness. Photograph: Palestine News Network.

Continue reading

PalTrade Launches Drive to Diversify Trade & Exports

The Palestine Trade Center (PalTrade), together with the Ministry of Economy in Ramallah, has announced a series of measures to promote Palestinian exports to the Arab countries, Europe and other international markets, including special programmes aimed at small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the West Bank and Gaza. They are being launched as more and more countries, following the lead of the UK, the European Union and South Africa, are refusing to accept imports labelled ‘Made in Israel,’ which, in fact, come from Israeli settlements in the occupied territories rather than from Israel itself.

The measures announced by PalTrade — a national, non-profit organisation based in Al Bireh in the West Bank — include a new trade diversification programme funded by the EU which is also being supported by the Palestinian Shippers Council. In addition to encouraging alternative trade corridors to, and through, Jordan and the nearby Arab countries, the €3 million programme sets up a ‘National Export Strategy’ to improve Palestine’s international competitiveness as well as special measures to develop Palestine’s trade in services.

Medjool dates and Palestinian fruits and vegetables from the Jordan Valley are prized throughout the Arab world. Picture courtesy of PalTrade.


Jordan and the Arab Gulf states are being targetted by PalTrade and the new Jericho Agro-Industrial Park. Picture courtesy of PalTrade.

“A comprehensive package will be implemented to support the private sector in reaching new markets and developing marketing strategies,” the EU’s chief representative, John Gatt-Rutter, said at the official launch in Ramallah’s Movenpick Hotel on 27 February.
However, he also noted that its success depended on Israel complying with its international obligations to remove the existing barriers to the free movement of people, goods and services in the territories. “For this project to fully deliver its results…Israel has a major responsibility for ensuring access and movement and facilitating Palestinian trade,” he told his audience, which included Prime Minister Salah Fayyad, PalTrade’s CEO, Hanan Taha, and Maha Abu Shoshah, Chairman of the Shippers Council.

Last September, the European Parliament in Strassbourg approved a new trade agreement with the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem which allows EU members states to import agricultural products, including fish, directly, i.e. without going through Israel. “This is one of the most generous trade agreements in the agricultural sector signed by the EU,” the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dacian Ciolos, said at the time. “I want to be clear,” he added, that the European Commission is working to ensure that the EU does not buy any products from Israeli colonies in the occupied Palestinian territories.” Continue reading