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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Gaza: Historic Gateway’s Huge Potential as a Mediterranean Trading Hub

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 and, most recently, the massive Israeli attack on the enclave — its third in the past six years. But, while one international commentator wrote recently, “It’s not too fanciful to see it in the future as the ‘Dubai’ of the Eastern Mediterranean,” Gaza has much more to offer given its 3,000 years of culture and its history as a prosperous trading hub connecting Africa and Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

Gaza, by David Roberts. Photo Reproduction, Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

Gaza, by David Roberts. Photo Reproduction, Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

(Click on the photo to enlarge.)

In the 19th Century, Gaza’s renowned soap factories, like those in Nablus, produced luxury goods that were exported around the world. It’s premium cotton crop, fruits, vegetables and spices were in great demand. Gaza’s merchants catered to a vast array of travelers: European visitors to the Holy Land, caravans from Egypt and North Africa, pilgrims from the Arabian Peninsula and Asia. Its bazaars were regarded as even better than those in Jerusalem.

Founded in the 14th Century, Khan Younis in southern Gaza served as a centre of the caravan trade between Asia and  Africa.  Photo:  Marka, Wikipedia.org

Founded in the 14th Century, Khan Younis in southern Gaza served as a centre of the caravan trade between Asia and Africa. Photo: Marka, Wikipedia.org

Before the latest invasion, the Washington-based International Monetary Fund estimated that Gaza’s GDP would rise by 7 per cent in 2013 and 6.5 per cent this year, figures that any European country would envy. But the destruction by Egypt, as well as Israel, of the underground tunnels, which allowed much needed supplies to be brought in despite the blockade, has ended any hopes that Gaza can survive on its own, never mind grow.

Earlier this year, it was expected that increases in international aid, especially from the European Union and the UN following Israel’s onslaught in November, 2012, would counter some of the setbacks. The rise in development funds, from both government and private sources in the Gulf states – including Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia – was also contributing to a new era of hope and confidence in Gaza. Qatar’s building projects, covering everything from schools, roads and hospitals to new housing and infrastructure projects alone were expected to create some 10,000 jobs by next year.

The University College of Applied Sciences in Gaza.  Many more schools and higher education facilities are needed.  Photo:  Ahmed Fuad.

The University College of Applied Sciences in Gaza. Many more schools and higher education facilities are needed. Photo: Ahmed Fuad.

Surprisingly, until the latest assault, the growing international awareness and support for Gaza’s people had also led to a boom in tourism in the enclaves’ new hotels, restaurants and shopping malls. International solidarity activists, NGO staff and aid officials were helping to boost capacity and business to levels not seen since the Israeli bombardment of late 2008.

Gaza's first five-star luxury hotel, the Al-Mashtal.  Photo:  ArcMed

Gaza’s first five-star luxury hotel, the Al-Mashtal. Photo: ArcMed

The desire of Gaza’s newly rich elite to live in up-to-date, spacious accommodation, combined with the eagerness of its private investors to seek out alternatives to the tunnel trade, helped to fuel a boom in real estate, retail and leisure services, as well as increased demand for international luxury brands.

Meanwhile, a host of recent studies, from the World Bank, Israeli academics and the Gaza-based PalThink research centre have pointed out that concrete measures will also be needed to be introduced by Hamas if Gaza’s huge economic potential is to be realized, even if the Israeli siege is lifted, or substantially eased.

In particular, they cite the need for more institutional support for the private sector, an overhaul of the tax regime, and measures to boost agricultural and industrial productivity, as well as export capacity.

Gaza could produce a huge array of fruits, vegetables, nuts, dates, olive oils and spices for export, if the seige were lifted.  Photo:  The Gaza Kitchen, Just World Books, 2013

Gaza could produce a huge array of fruits, vegetables, nuts, dates, olive oils and spices for export, if the seige were lifted. Photo: The Gaza Kitchen, Just World Books, 2013

Gaza's fishermen used to supply Egypt, Israel and neighbouring Arab states, but Israeli restrictions mean the fishermen cannot even supply domestic demand. Photo:  The Gaza Kitchen, Just World Books, 2013

Gaza’s fishermen used to supply Egypt, Israel and neighbouring Arab states, but Israeli restrictions mean the fishermen cannot even supply domestic demand. Photo: The Gaza Kitchen, Just World Books, 2013

Special attention, they add, should be given to those sectors, such as manufacturing, construction and tourism, which would provide the most jobs. Vocational training projects, as well as a re-vamp of the entire educational system, plus incentives for the ICT and telecoms sector, they say, are urgently needed to help Gaza realize its opportunities in a globalized marketplace.

While the Bank of Palestine and other financial institutions have continued to provide, often under the most difficult circumstances, access to cash and funds in Gaza, Hamas will also need to ensure that any lifting of the Israeli siege, both for business people and cargoes, is accompanied by closer co-ordination of trade and regulations with the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. Gaza’s dependence on the use of the Israeli shekel (NIS) as its main currency, together with its heavy reliance on money-lenders rather than on banks which can gather deposits and direct them to profitable development projects, could hold up progress in the future as more aid and investment pours in, and as reconstruction begins, once again, in earnest, the reports note.

If Gaza City is to thrive again, Hamas will need to introduce economic and financial reforms, as well as seeking to end the Israeli blockade.  Photo: Al Jazeera English

If Gaza City is to thrive again, Hamas will need to introduce economic and financial reforms, as well as seeking to end the Israeli blockade. Photo: Al Jazeera English

Arab and Islamic tourism to Gaza, as well as to Jerusalem and the West Bank, could also be greatly increased by agreements with Egypt on developing the Sinai Peninsula and the border areas with Gaza, Oman Shaban, the founder and director of the Gaza-based think tank, PalThink, argues. “Tourism in the Sinai Peninsula [which would also benefit Egypt directly] represents a golden opportunity for tens of thousands of Palestinian families in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Jerusalem due to visitor appeal and modest costs,” he maintains.

Dating back to the 13th Century, the Pasha's Palace has been occupied by various rulers of Gaza, from the Mamlukes and Ottomans to Napolean and the British.  The UN is now helping to restore it as a major tourist site.  Photo: UNDP

Dating back to the 13th Century, the Pasha’s Palace has been occupied by various rulers of Gaza, from the Mamlukes and Ottomans to Napolean and the British. The UN is now helping to restore it as a major tourist site. Photo: UNDP

Talks between the PA and Israel that were underway to begin exploiting the rich reserves of natural gas, and possibly oil as well, lying just off Gaza’s shores in the Mediterranean, have also been put on hold. Valued at some $7 billion, they could help to end Gaza’s critical shortage of fuel and electricity as well as providing substantial revenues to build new schools, hospitals, roads, ports and even an airport, as well as vitally needed new water and wastewater facilities. Gas exports either through Egypt or Turkey, could boost the PA’s coffers for years to come, and help to reduce both Gaza and the West Bank’s huge dependence on international aid, speeding up the day when Palestine can become self-sufficient.

Gas reserves valued at $7 billion lying off the coast of Gaza could greatly reduce Palestine's dependence on foreign aid.  Photo:  Michel Chossudovsky

Gas reserves valued at $7 billion lying off the coast of Gaza could greatly reduce Palestine’s dependence on foreign aid. Photo: Michel Chossudovsky

Hamas’s newfound unity with the PA in Ramallah and the solidarity for Gaza shown by Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as by people around the world, bodes well for bringing Gaza into a regional network that could benefit Israel as well as Palestine. But for that to happen, more pragmatic heads will need to surface in Tel Aviv and Cairo, as well as in Gaza City.

© 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.

An earlier version of this article appeared in the July, 2013 issue of The Middle East magazine.

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.

Global Investors Target the Palestine Stock Exchange in 2014

Both prices and trading volumes on the Palestine Stock Exchange (PEX) have scored impressive gains since the start of this year, thanks largely to investors from the Palestinian diaspora and Arab Gulf states. Recent decisions by such respected ratings agencies as Standard & Poor’s, Dow Jones and MSCI to include Palestine in their indices, as well as plans by London’s FTSE to follow suit, are now attracting other global investors from the UK, Europe, the US, Canada, Chile and elsewhere to the Exchange and to its leading companies, such as PADICO Holding, PalTel and the Bank of Palestine, analysts report.

Expectations that these moves will be followed by PEX’s inclusion in the global ‘Frontier Market’ indices is already fuelling demand from institutional investors, the analysts add. Its multi-currency platform, allowing trading in both US dollars and Jordanian dinars, as well as Palestine’s lack of capital controls, is also encouraging international interest. Trading volumes in January were more than two-fold higher than in December, and nearly four times as high as in January, 2013.

PEX's CEO, Ahmad Aweidah, expects 2014 to be a "threshold year."  Photo:  Mark Green, mark@nwmsltd.com.

PEX’s CEO, Ahmad Aweidah, expects 2014 to be a “threshold year.” Photo: Mark Green, mark@nwmsltd.com.

The Exchange’s Al Quds index broke through the 600 barrier in early February before falling back slightly on profit taking. It had risen 10.55 per cent in January alone, making it the second best performing stock market in the Arab world so far this year. Last year, the index registered an annual gain of 13.4 per cent, according to figures compiled by Ramallah-based brokers Sahem Investment and Trading. By the middle of February, the Exchange’s total market capitalisation had reached more than $3.5 billion.

Palestine's Stock Exchange is ahead of most other Arab markets.   Graph: Sahem Trading & Investment.

Palestine’s Stock Exchange is ahead of most other Arab markets. Graph: Sahem Trading & Investment.

This year could be a “threshold year,” the Exchange’s CEO, Ahmad Aweidah, told InvestPalestine.com. Speaking during a visit to London in mid-January to mark Palestine Capital Markets Day, he said “We are now achieving a series of important economic breakthroughs that could see our growth accelerate even more strongly.

He and other members of the Palestinian delegation, which included senior executives from PalTrade, PalTel, the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF), PADICO Holding, the Bank of Palestine, Sahem Trading & Investment and Lotus for Financial Investment, as well as Abeer Odeh, CEO of the Palestine Capital Market Authority, were hosted on the last evening of their visit to London by Baroness Morris of Bolton, UK Prime Minister David Cameron’sTrade Envoy for the Palestinian Territories, at a reception in Westminster organised by the Palestine British Business Council and its co-chairman, Antoine Mattar.

The Palestine Delegation to Palestine Capital Markets Day in London, 17 January, 2014.  From left to right:  Fida Musleh-Azar, PEX Manager of Public Relations & Investor Education; PEX   CEO Ahmad Aweidah; Ammar Aker, CEO, PalTel; John Davies, Vice-President, S&P Dow Jones Indices.  Photo:  Mark Green.

The Palestine Delegation to Palestine Capital Markets Day in London, 17 January, 2014. From left to right: Fida Musleh-Azar, PEX Manager of Public Relations & Investor Education; PEX CEO Ahmad Aweidah; Ammar Aker, CEO, PalTel; John Davies, Vice-President, S&P Dow Jones Indices. Photo: Mark Green.

Financial services, banking, ICT, infrastructure and high value agriculture, as well as tourism (including such world renowned attractions as Bethlehem, the Dead Sea and Jericho) were making strong progress, Aweidah told an audience of existing and potential investors. And, although economic growth has slowed recently as local entrepreneurs and international donors await firm progress on US Secretary of State John Kerry’s ‘peace initiative,’ Palestine’s GDP has grown by a remarkable 8.4 per cent a year on average during the past five years, he noted.

“The Palestine economy continues to demonstrate exceptional endurance despite political challenges,” Aweidah explained, a performance he attributed to the “strong and vibrant private sector,” its “well regulated and sophisticated financial system,” its “modern capital market,” and “advanced investor protection regime.” The majority of the 49 stocks on the Exchange, he pointed out, also “enjoy free float ratios that are comparable to advanced markets” as well as “reassuring turnover ratios.”

Foreign investors, both individual and institutional, are helping to boost values and volumes on the Palestine Stock Exchange.  Graph: PEX, Ministry of National Economy.

Foreign investors, both individual and institutional, are helping to boost both values and volumes on the Palestine Stock Exchange. Graph: PEX, Ministry of National Economy.

At the end of 2013, foreign investment in PEX amounted to just over 40 per cent of the total value of its shares, or about 34 per cent by volume. Investors from Jordan, many of whom are Palestinians with Jordanian citizenship, accounted for the majority of the foreign shareholders, 61.4 per cent, followed by others from the Americas at 10.9 per cent, the Arab Gulf with 6.6 per cent and Europe with 2.5 per cent. Palestinians made up 95 per cent of the total number of investors, demonstrating the widespread appetite for shares among smaller shareholders living both inside and outside Palestine.

Speaking to potential investors in London and to InvestPalestine.com, John Davies, Vice President at S&P Dow Jones Indices, explained why his firm, which now includes both the respected ratings agencies, Standard & Poor’s and Dow Jones, had established two stand-alone indices for Palestine last December. “We don’t build indices simply because we feel they are needed,” he insisted. “We build them because our clients are asking for them. The establishment [of the new indices] is evidence that there is significant demand for investment in Palestine.”

John Davies, Vice President at S&P Dow Jones Indices, explaining PEX's attractions to an audience of investors in London, 17 January, 2014.  Photo:  Mark Green.

John Davies, Vice President at S&P Dow Jones Indices, explaining PEX’s attractions to an audience of investors in London, 17 January, 2014. Photo: Mark Green.

The two new additions are the S&P Palestine Broad Market Index (BMI), which aims to capture at least 80 per cent of PEX’s market capitalisation, and the Dow Jones Palestine Total Stock Market Index (TSM), which aims for 95 per cent of the Exchange’s float-adjusted market capitalisation, Davies explained. Since testing began in September 2012, he added, the stand alone BMI index had achieved a 41 per cent cumulative annual return, a figure which compares favourably with the Pan-Arab Composition Index at 24.5 per cent and the S&P Composition Index at about 30.2 per cent.

Despite general skepticism about the progress of Kerry’s peace talks, investors are more confident that he will succeed in brokering a deal, the news agency, Bloomberg, quoted Aweidah as saying in mid-January. “If there’s a framework agreement, it’ll be a game changer” for the Exchange. There’s certainly a lot of optimism in the market about the direction of the political negotiations…. The time to invest in Palestinian stocks is now.”

Processing premium quality Medjool dates at a Palestinian-owned factory in the Jordan Valley.  The possibility of greater access to the fertile soil and water of the Israeli-occupied parts of the Valley and "Area C" as a result of the current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is a major factor in encouraging both local and foreign entrepreneurs to invest in the West Bank.  Photo: fablenaturals.com.

Processing premium quality Medjool dates at a Palestinian-owned factory in the Jordan Valley. The possibility of greater access to the fertile soil and water of the Israeli-occupied parts of the Valley and “Area C” as a result of the current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is a major factor in encouraging both local and foreign entrepreneurs to invest in the West Bank. Photo: fablenaturals.com.

Success in the talks would, according to a recent study by the International Monetary Fund, boost economic growth in the Territories by 35 per cent over the next five and a half years, or about 6.5% a year on average, compared with 1.5 per cent in 2013. This includes Palestinians gaining control of the land, water and resources in Area C, which forms almost two-thirds of the West Bank, which is currently under Israeli military occupation. The IMF adds that an agreement would significantly reduce the Palestinian Authority’s dependence on foreign aid, greatly enhance employment and lower poverty levels.Local entrepreneurs are investing in modern factories, like this one outside Hebron.  Photo:  Palden Jenkins.  paldywan.blogspot.co.uk Local entrepreneurs are investing in modern factories, like this one outside Hebron. Photo: Palden Jenkins, paldywan.blogspot.co.uk.

Business confidence in the West Bank is also rising, according to Palestinian analysts, because of higher optimism among entrepreneurs and in the industrial sector, especially in food, textiles, chemical, pharmaceutical, engineering, plastics and construction. The Palestinian Monetary Authority reported in mid-February that its monthly index, the PMA Business Cycle Indicator, had risen from minus 1.44 in the West Bank in January to a positive 8.25 in February. Negative business sentiment in the Gaza Strip also improved, as industrialists reportedly felt more optimistic about the continuous US efforts to stimulate the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis and less fearful of a continuing deterioration in security conditions. The northern West Bank city of Jenin is to be the site of a vital new power plant due to be built by a Palestinian company. Photo: Palden Jenkins, paldywan.blogspot.co.uk.

If an accord is agreed, Aweidah revealed, as many as four family-owned businesses in Palestine may also opt to sell shares on the Exchange through initial public offerings (IPO’s). The Palestine Power Generating Company (PPGC), he added, could follow suit.

PPGC is planning to build a $300 million power plant in Jenin in the West Bank which will be fuelled by gas from the giant offshore Leviathan field in the Mediterranean under a $1.2 billion, 20-year deal agreed in January. PPGC’s leading shareholders include the Palestine Electric Company, the builders of Palestine’s first independent power plant, and the industrial conglomerate, PADICO, both of which are quoted on the PEX.

© 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.

Hopes Rise for Palestinian Economy

Hopes are rising that 2013 will see a significant improvement in Palestine’s economy after the disappointments of last year. US Secretary of State John Kerry’s pledge to find new ways to promote development in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem is, despite widespread scepticism, also furthering this optimism, not least because he has recognised that this must go hand-in-hand with promoting a sovereign Palestinian state.

Palestine’s Minister of Economy, Jawad Naji Awad Hirzallah, told the Arab media in April, after US President Barack Obama’s visit to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ramallah in March, that “We expect the growth rate in 2013 to be 5 to 6 percent. Against a backdrop of negative economic conditions,” he added, “ this is a good indication of growth.” Last year, Palestine’s services sector, including retail trade and tourism, grew by a remarkable 13.2 per cent, while construction was up 6.5 per cent and information and communications (ICT) 5.9 per cent.

 Not everyone, like this couple in Ramallah, can afford a BMW, but their is a hunger for the luxuries of modern life.  Photo:  Reuters

Not everyone, like this couple in Ramallah, can afford a BMW, but there is a hunger for the luxuries of modern life. Photo: Reuters.

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Editor’s Note: Coming Up

As Mahmoud Abbas prepares to go to the UN General Assembly for a vote recognising Palestinian statehood, we’ll be reporting on the consequences on the ground in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, not just the diplomatic repercussions in New York, Washington, Europe and the Arab world.

Talk about the possibility that the the Oslo Accords — and the related Paris Protocol governing economic relations between Israel and the Palestinian territories — could be abolished has huge significance for people and businesses on both sides of the border. Donor funds for the Palestinian Authority could be squeezed even more, threatening the livelihoods of families throughout the West Bank and Gaza.

Ramallah at Night. Will the lights go out? Despite fears, it’s unlikely that international donors will allow the Palestinian Authority, based in Ramallah, to collapse. Photo: CSM.


Most importantly, we’ll be highlighting two entrepreneurs who have made a huge impact on Palestinian lives over the past decades: Hashim Shawa, CEO of the Bank of Palestine, and Fadi Ghandour, the Beirut-born, Jordanian entrepreneur who has fostered a revolution that is not yet fully appreciated: creating new start-ups — with global impact – based on the huge, untapped potential of young Palestinians in the diaspora, as well as providing a superb example of his own struggles creating a successful $700 million company, Aramex.

Hashim Shawa, CEO of the Bank of Palestine, is reaching out to Palestinians everywhere. Photo: Dubai News.


Fadi Ghandour is an “Angel Investor” for new Palestinian start-ups. Photo: Financial Times, London.

Meanwhile, here’s the latest international press coverage, which InvestPalestine.com has obtained in the November issue of The Middle East magazine. (See ‘About’ on the menu at the top of this page.)

Thanks to Palestinian companies like Al Quds Holding, PADICO Holdings and investments by the Nusseibeh family, not to mention another international success story, CCC — and these are just a few of the companies involved — Palestinians in East Jerusalem have managed to stay in their homes, and in the Holy City, despite all.

Palestinian companies helping to promote jobs, investment and trade in East Jerusalem are now getting international press coverage. Credit: The Middle East magazine.

(See the full article, as it first appeared on InvestPalestine.com, 21 October, below.)

Don’t forget, that the 29th of November is the 34th anniversary of the UN’s declaration of 29 November as ‘The Day of International Solidarity with the Palestinian People,’ and the 65th anniversary of UN Resolution 181, declaring an independent state in Palestine.

Thanks for reading!

Pam

Palestine in The Middle East magazine

One of the main aims of InvestPalestine.com is to promote the bright prospects for the Palestinian economy—and the advantages of investing in it – in the international media, both print and digital. Here’s one example, a 10-page Special Report on Palestine: Building Bridges to the Future, that appeared in the October issue of the London-based, pan-Arab, English-language monthly, The Middle East, which is due to be available online in the coming week. Alternatively, you can pick up the magazine at your local newsstand, or subscribe.

Reaching international readers: A Special Report from the London-based, pan-Arab monthly, The Middle East and InvestPalestine.com.

http://www.themiddleastmagazine.com
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Editor’s Note: Here’s What’s Happening

InvestPalestine.com has been busy this month, promoting a ‘Special Report’ on The Palestinian Economy: Bright Prospects for the Private Sector, which is due to appear in the London-based, pan-Arab monthly, The Middle East, on the 1st of October.

It includes an exclusive interview with the CEO of the Bank of Palestine, Hashim Shawa, which we’ll bring to you then… plus other stories on PalTel, the HUGE start-up potential of Palestinian information technology firms (and the ExpoTech exhibition in Ramallah and Gaza) … plus information about the new investment funds springing up in Palestine … as well as new ventures from the UK to promote Palestinian exports and scholarships and training for young Palestinians.

A fruit and vegetable market in Ramallah. In the end, it’s all about feeding the family…ideally, with LOCAL produce. Mohamad Torokman/Reuters

Meanwhile, look out for our Special Feature on Palestine’s Agriculture: Its Untapped Potential, later this week which takes a look at the tens of thousands of jobs that this sector could create in the future, as well as its enormous potential to promote Palestine’s exports to world markets.

Thanks for reading,

Pam

P.S. Click on the “Subscribe” button at the top right of the home page if you would like to receive FREE emails on future posts, or email pamansmith@compuserve.com if you would like to suggest ideas for, or comments on, the editorial content.

UK Targets Palestinian ICT & Telecoms

The UK government, along with a growing list of international ICT giants such as Google, Microsoft, Cisco and Intel, is the latest to recognise Palestine’s huge potential in information communications and technology given its highly talented younger generation, which is fluent in English and Arabic, as well as in entrepreneurial and engineering skills.   Britain’s Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, Ed Vaisey, says that his government hopes to get Palestinian and UK businesses “to work together,” and that it will actively seek to encourage British companies to “come and start business in Palestine.”

He was commenting during a visit to Ramallah in March that also included a tour of the headquarters of Palestine’s telecommunications corporation, PalTel, which, with its subsidiaries Jawwal and Hadara, provides the majority of Internet, landline and mobile services in the West Bank and Gaza.  PalTel, which is a favourite of international investors on the Palestine Securities Exchange, reported a 5.1 per cent increase in profits last year, to $128 million, despite the difficulties of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.  Thanks to an intensive expansion programme, it has now extended its services to the Jordan Valley region, and is planning to invest an additional $70 million to $80 million by the end of this year in new fibre optic and mobile phone infrastructure, primarily for the Internet.

PalTel’s CEO, Ammar Aker

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