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.

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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

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