PA econ­omy is a ‘coiled spring’

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News - BY BEN LYN­FIELD

A FES­TI­VAL for Jeri­cho cel­e­brat­ing it as the world’s old­est city; call cen­tres pro­vid­ing jobs in the West Bank; a wa­ter de­sali­na­tion project for Gaza.

Th­ese and vi­sions of new towns in the Judean hills were on of­fer last week at the Pales­tine In­vest­ment Con­fer­ence in Beth­le­hem, hosted by Tony Blair and the Pales­tinian Prime Min­is­ter, Salaam Fayyad.

“The Pales­tinian econ­omy is like a coiled spring. It has been put down and down and down and it is ready to bounce back,” Sir Ron­ald Co­hen, head of the Port­land Trust, told the con­fer­ence.

He said mak­ing hous­ing more af­ford­able and of­fer­ing loan guar­an­tees could pro­mote a West Bank con­struc­tion boom. Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions was also seen as a po­ten­tial growth sec­tor, rel­a­tively un­af­fected by the Is­raeli check­points in the West Bank.

Is­raeli MK Ephraim Sneh told the JC: “Re­mov­ing check­points is one con­di­tion for eco­nomic re­cov­ery, but it is not the sin­gle con­di­tion. More secu- rity and less ter­ror will also boost the econ­omy. The golden path must be found.”

Gaza busi­ness con­sul­tant Sami Ab­dul Shafi urged in­vestors to look be­yond cur­rent Is­raeli stric­tures on the Strip, which have vir­tu­ally shut down the private sec­tor. Gazans “have the ed­u­ca­tion, mo­ti­va­tion and vi­a­bil­ity to be­come suc­cess­ful con­trib­u­tors to the re­gional and in­ter­na­tional econ­omy”, he said.

Not ev­ery­one was con­vinced this was an aus­pi­cious time for in­vest­ment in Pales­tine. “If I in­vest money and can­not fol­low up my project due to the travel re­stric­tions, I will sim­ply lose. When peace comes there will be big chances for in­vest­ment,” said Ahmed Jawabre, a Pales­tinian busi­ness­man who lives in Abu Dhabi. He said he had to pass through five check­points to reach the con­fer­ence from Nablus.

The Qatari-owned Wataniya Mo­bile Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany an­nounced that it had been al­lo­cated fre­quency spec­trum by Is­rael and can start up as the sec­ond mo­bile-phone op­er­a­tor in the West Bank.

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