In Washington : Dina El Naggar (202) 473-3245
WASHINGTON , May 22, 2008 – “Palestinian investors are taking the future into their own hands” said World Bank Managing Director Dr. Juan Jose Daboub, in remarks to over 1,200 investors attending the Palestine Investment Conference, convened by the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.
“Private investments in West Bank and Gaza offer the potential for significant returns for investors, as well as being crucial to encourage an even more vibrant economy able to provide jobs and opportunities for the Palestinian people and underpin a sustainable peace process”.
Palestinian business leaders stressed the opportunities available, despite challenges. With an investment climate that continues to improve, they highlighted the opportunities for companies prepared to “get in the elevator on the ground floor”.
Business leaders from the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce noted that the Palestinian private sector was highly resilient, and had been able to flourish in even more difficult times than now.
Thriving Palestinian businesses range from sophisticated stone and construction companies that are global industry leaders, pharmaceuticals manufacturers, garments, food and handicrafts, as well as pioneers in a rapidly growing information technology sector.
“These businesses are displaying the craftsmanship, ingenuity, hard work, and entrepreneurial spirit to succeed that is a hallmark of the Palestinian people” said Dr. Daboub, who is of Palestinian descent himself.
World Bank analysis suggests that growth in the Palestinian territories started to pick up in the latter half of 2007, and could accelerate even further should movement and access restrictions be able to be eased. The Bank’s Doing Business report indicates that the investment climate in the West Bank and Gaza continues to improve, and compares favorably with countries in the region.
“In looking at opportunities for investments, the World Bank is putting it’s money where it’s mouth is” said Dr. Daboub.
The International Finance Corporation, the World Bank’s private sector arm, has committed almost $130 million to 16 companies operating in West Bank and Gaza over the past decade. This includes a commitment announced in April 2008 to invest $75 million in a new Affordable Housing Initiative, which will create over 3,000 jobs and provide finance to thousands of families to help them afford better houses. While IFC invests with a development mandate, investments are made with the intention of earning commercial returns.
The Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) is finalizing the expansion of a $30 million West Bank and Gaza Guarantee Fund. By providing insurance for investors against risks of war and civil disturbance, this can help to encourage investors seeking to share risks.
The Bank itself has been present in the West Bank and Gaza for 15 years, since the 1993 Oslo Accords. In this time, it has provided $580 million to the Palestinian Authority, and mobilized an additional $1 billion of donor financing. Bank financing and advice has supported the Palestinian Authority to put in place a policy framework and the necessary infrastructure to promote growth and opportunities.
“This Conference exemplifies the dynamism and the bright future for the Palestinian people who, no matter what, never give up” Dr. Daboub concluded.