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The Institute of Public Policies (IPP) holds second workshop on Palestinian economy

Between reality and ambition

 The Institute of Public Policies (IPP) in cooperation with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Palestine  held the second session of an economic workshop entitled "The Palestinian Economy between Reality and Ambition", using the "Zoom" platform. The workshop dealt with the government's economic strategy, its most important policies, the hindering facts on the ground, the tools it develops to overcome obstacles, in addition to the topics of economic disintegration and food security.


The workshop was attended by Undersecretary of the Ministry of National Economy, Eng. Manal Farhan, Director of Programs at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Palestine, Mr. Nidal Al-Eissa, and the representative of the Job Creation Program in the Southern Governorates, Eng. Jihad Sharaf. The workshops were presented and facilitated by the chairman of the  Institute Dr. Muhammad Odeh, Secretary of the Institute and Editor-in-Chief of Policy Journal Dr. Abdullah Al-Najjar, and Director of Programs at the Friedrich-Ebert- stiftung Palestine Mr.Rasmus Brandt.

In her intervention entitled "The Government's Viewpoint on the Reality of the Economy and Ambition", Farhan pointed to the role of the Israeli occupation in impeding the growth of the Palestinian economy, which led to structural distortions in many sectors.

She indicated that the productive sectors suffer a lot as a result of Israeli practices, as evidenced by the presence of more than 600 checkpoints and barriers in the West Bank, explaining that despite the occupation's measures, the National Authority has put in place many economic policies, focusing on the industrial and agricultural sectors.

She stated that there are many policies that the government has focused on, such as improving the work environment and upgrading the legislative environment, through the issuance and enactment of many laws such as the Companies Law (under approval).

She also referred to the government's contribution to supporting the national product, as two steering and technical committees were formed for this purpose, adding that the ministry focuses, through its policies, on women's economic empowerment.

She talked about the cluster development strategy adopted by the government, indicating that among its advantages is a focus on the spatial dimension.

Farhan pointed to the government's interest in the issue of economic independence, and the reduction of the amounts of imports from Israel, which decreased from 70% to 55%, due to official efforts to promote direct imports and diversify sources of imports, stressing, on the other hand, that upgrading the Palestinian economy requires, in one aspect, control on the crossings.

For his part, Al-Issa stated, in his intervention on “economic disengagement”, that the economic disengagement from the occupying state is a matter of disagreement, between those who doubt its feasibility, and others believe in this possibility, adding, “If disengagement for some, means not dealing economically with the occupying state, this is difficult because of the restrictions that are in place now."

He noted that achieving disengagement, whether gradual or through opening an economic battle, requires the availability of several elements, such as controlling the crossings.

He pointed to the impact of the Paris Economic Agreement on the reality of the Palestinian economy, indicating that the agreement has turned into a tool for stabilizing and strengthening the dependence of the Palestinian economy on its Israeli counterpart.

He went on to say: There is a governmental and non-governmental failure to deal with the economic file, for the successive governments, despite the enormous attempts to develop the economy, there were aspects that could have been changed, or confronted with the Israeli side, but this did not happen, such as importing energy and other goods.

He continued: The private sector preferred to deal with the Israeli side, due to proximity and ease, and sometimes low prices, which reinforced the internal failure in the economy.

He also said: We import from Israel $3.6 billion annually, while we export $1 billion to Israel. Therefore, this is a disproportionate trade relationship, adding, "We cannot talk about economic independence without political independence."

As for Eng. Sharaf, representative of the Job Creation Program, he emphasized in his intervention that the program adopts a strategy of transforming relief projects and aid into development programs, and focused on creating job opportunities and food security, pointing to the importance of the agricultural sector on the economic level.

He pointed out, in his intervention from the Gaza Strip, that more than 80% of the population of the Strip lives below the poverty line, while the unemployment rate among the youth category has risen to 70%.

He said: The main reason behind the increase in food insecurity rates in the Gaza Strip is the inability of individuals and families, there, to secure their needs, as the rate of food insecurity in the sector in 2019 reached more than 70%, compared to 65% in 2018, according to the data issued by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Palestine.

He continued: The rate of suffering from food insecurity varies between severe and moderate, and the reason for this is mainly due to the Israeli blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip, which led to the deterioration of economic conditions, in addition to the repercussions of the emerging Covid-19.

He reviewed some of the interventions of the "Job Creation" program to reduce the problem of food insecurity, explaining that the program, which was established in 1994 and has been directly supervised by the Presidential Office since 2001, has implemented many highly operational projects.

He explained that the program implemented projects worth $80 million from 1994 to 2001, while it has implemented projects worth $67 million since its annexation to the Gaza Strip. This amount could be doubled without the Israeli siege and wars on the Gaza Strip.

The workshop began with a speech by Odeh, in which he referred to the Institute's interest in helping decision makers to take decisions and measures based on well-thought-out and systematic public policies.

He indicated the importance of focusing on the economic aspect, especially in light of the negative problems of the "Corona" pandemic, and the need to come up with recommendations that would benefit decision-makers, and hence the institute's focus in its activities for the economic aspect this year.

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