Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fuad Abu Hamed, the IMF & the Palestinian economy

21C is an excellent Israeli website. It recently featured Fuad Abu Hamed, a rags-to-riches story of the Palestinian economy. His latest success in training Palestinian women has won him an award from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His bio is impressive.

But does one individual triumph should not allow to draw conclusions about the rest of the Palestinian economy? The World Bank, the IMF and many other international institutions have spent much of the past decade producing streams of stats on the Palestinian economy. The latest report has come from the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), which estimates that the gross domestic product (GDP) rose by 6.8 per cent in 2009.

Encouraging, but the documented concluded that: -

….. the Palestinian economy is loosing some $800 million a year as the result of the Israeli closure and blockade policies, and that the 2008-2009 Gaza War drained a further $1.3 billion from the territory’s economy.

….. the per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was still 30 percent below what it was 10 years ago and at least 30 percent of the Palestinian workforce remained unemployed. Some 80,000 jobs are lost each year due to the Israeli closure and blockade policies, the report found.

“Basically the Palestinian economy has lost a third of its productive base that was there 10 years ago,” ….

Sad. Gaza specifially, a historically fertile region with an educated population, suffers from high unemployment. But there is another side to the equation of logic.

Much of the economic growth has been registered in the West Bank, where a decrease in violence has enabled roadblocks to be removed. Nearly 2 years ago, a small but growing Israel Palestinian Chamber of Commerce was initiated through Ramallah. Tony Blair is actively encouraging tourism projects. Boutique shops in Ramallah, a cinema complex in Jenin, an emerging stock market – times are a changing.

So, the IMF et al are correct that Israeli restrictions impede Palestinian growth. that’s a given in any war scenario. But they conveniently forget that the policy is forced on Israel out of security concerns - the week of September 7th alone saw another 9 rockets fired at Israel. And as proven repeatedly, once there is a demonstration to show peace, Israel removes the impediments and in rolls the money.

As I said logical; simple and obvious. But there is also another reason why Palestinians find their economy lagging behind others.

I am not referring to the continuous corruption or the disappearing millions of foreign aid or the on-going funding of incitement against Israel - all resulting in the abuse of the generosity of Western taxpayers.

It is the internal lawlessness of Palestinian society, often exploited by a ruthless leadership, that appears to cause desperate harm to the average Palestinian’s financial status. Last week, the Ramallah-based Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights issued a damning press release of on the subject of repression. For example: -

….. on September 15, 2010 the (Palestinian) police shut down the Restaurant Hotel and Café of the Orient House ….. …

ICHR has monitored several incidents like these during the same period, as the General Investigation Force disrupted on 7/9/2010 a cultural event organized by the Cinema Forum in the gallery of Asamak Restaurant, ……

On 12/9/2010, a force of the General Investigation Unit disrupted a cultural eve organized by the Association of Community Colleges Graduates in the gallery of Al-Bieder. ….

On 5/9/2010, the Attorney General ordered a jockey club closed in the area of Shiekh Ajlin in Gaza city for (21) days claiming it doesn’t have the necessary licenses.

On 2/9/2010, the police shut down the Restaurant and Café Shop of “Sma Gaza” for three days because it let women smoke water pipe (“Nargile”).

I bet that Fuad Abu-Hamed does not love Israel. However, he has found a non-violent way to better the lives of his fellow Palestinians. His story is just one example of what can be done effectively, splicing aside the rhetoric of Hamas and the spin of exploitive NGOs.

It would seem that there is a Palestinian economy waiting to be noticed. Could it be that the interests of politicians are preventing it from shining through?

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