Business & Economy

Wide participation in the Olive Harvest Festival

Every year at the beginning of October, the annual olive harvest begins in Palestine. The survival of tens of thousands of Palestinian families is more dependant than ever on their ability to harvest their olives and market the oil they yield. This is not something that can be assumed as the Israeli settlement, closures and the construction of the separation wall cut off people from their land thereby destroying their livelihoods. Volunteers joined Palestinian farmers with the annual olive harvest in the Bethlehem area. 

Olive harvest begins under the shadow of restrictions on movement

This year’s olive harvest season in the West Bank has begun. The harvest comes in the wake of extensive damage to the groves during the construction of the Separation Barrier, and strict restrictions on movement imposed on Palestinian farmers trying to access their land west of the Barrier. Many farmers received a permit for the harvest season, but were not allowed to reach their land during the course of the year. Since they were unable to work their fields during the year, they will now find their fields in poor condition. As a result, the harvest will be more difficult and yield a smaller crop. The restrictions on movement due to the barrier are in addition to those the IDF has imposed for a number of years on Palestinians whose agricultural lands lie near settlements and outposts. 

UNCTAD supports Palestinian Shippers Council

UNCTAD, with funds contributed by the European Commission (EC), is stepping up technical assistance to support the creation of a Palestinian Shippers Council and the extension of computerized customs operations to the Gaza border with Egypt. The two new field projects will have budgets totalling €703,000. The projects add to UNCTAD´s already-extensive efforts to help the Palestinian people revitalize their economy and build the institutional structures of their future state. They address key economic problems and were designed in close consultation with relevant Palestinian Authority (PA) institutions, international development agencies and concerned donors. 

Apartheid and Agrexco in the Jordan Valley

On June 25, an Israeli spokesperson announced a plan intended to increase the number of settlers in the Jordan Valley by 50 percent in one year. The cost of new housing units will be $13.5 million (U.S.) in the initial year, and will increase to $32.5 million in the following year. The plan focuses on the development of agriculture and tourism in the valley, with grants of up to $22 million available for agricultural development. Agrexco is 50 percent owned by the Israeli state and all of the produce exported from the valley is packed by and sold through them. Palestinian farmers no longer attempt to export because their dealings with the company have been so catastrophic. Nor are they able to take their produce to other markets in Palestine, because it is impossible to get it through the Jordan Valley checkpoints. 

UNCTAD: "Palestinian preparations for statehood should focus on pro-poor economic reform"

Years of economic retrenchment on top of almost four decades of occupation have increased poverty, reduced and distorted production, and heightened dependence on Israel. Prescriptions for Palestinian economic recovery must take into account the Israeli occupation, protracted conflict since 2000, and the imperatives created by the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, an United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report warns. It recommends that the focus should be on forming institutions that will serve the needs of an upcoming Palestinian State rather than aiming solely at reforming a transitional government, and that efforts to economic revival should target poverty reduction while expanding production and trade. 

Israeli exit fuels hope for Gaza economy

As the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip draws to a close, hopes for economic prospects in this impoverished, strife-torn land have been renewed. Already, the EU has pledged investments in Gaza, with 700 million-800 million euros of mainly infrastructure projects by June, according to Antoine Eric de Haulleville, head of the EU’s International Management Group mission in Palestine. But Gaza’s prospects of economic success are clouded if it remains cut off from the West Bank and from the rest of the world after the Israeli withdrawal, experts have said. According to the World Bank, a lot more than dollars and disengagement is needed if the Palestinian economy, now in shambles, is to revive. 

USAID agrees to transfer $50 million to Palestinian Authority

The US adminstration and Palestinian leaders have signed an agreement for the transfer of $50 million in direct assistance to the Palestinians. The U.S. officials made a formal announcement with Minister of Finance Salam Fayyad at the Palestinian Prime Minister’s office on Wednesday. The agreement between the Palestinian Ministry of Finance and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) underlines U.S. confidence in the Palestinian Authority’s reform program and aims to ensure that the Gaza disengagement is a success. 

Special Envoy Gaza Disengagement left region with progress made

Special Envoy on Disengagement, James Wolfensohn, returned to Jerusalem on Thursday 8th July 2005. During this visit, he focused on resolution of the six joint issues introduced in the last Periodic Report. When he left on 15 July much progress had been made on most of the issues with proposals being seriously considered by the parties: border crossings and trade corridors, a three phase approach to “back – to – back” for all crossings but Rafah, connecting the Gaza Strip with the West Bank, convoy transport immediately after disengagement, movement in the West Bank, air and sea ports, houses in settlements and greenhouses in the settlements. 

Special Envoy on Disengagement Wolfensohn concludes his fourth visit to the region

James Wolfensohn, Special Envoy for Disengagement, concluded his fourth visit to the region on 10 August since his appointment at the beginning of June 2005. With Disengagement scheduled to begin in a week’s time, all efforts have been focused on resolution of the six joint issues: border crossings and trade corridors, the connection between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, movement in the West Bank, air and sea ports, settlement houses, green houses in the settlements. In addition there are three Palestinian issues: the fiscal crisis, the PA faces a budget shortfall of approximately $400 million; the three year plan for Palestinian development; and a package of quick impact economic programs. 

Gaza fishermen's livelihood on the line

Though one of Gaza’s oldest active fishermen, Suheil Sa’dallah spends most of his time loitering around Gaza’s makeshift fisherman’s port, where dozens of docked boats, including his own, bob gently in the sea. In the face of stringent Israeli restrictions on Palestinian fishing zones, and the absence of a modern industrial port, many fishermen there, like Sa’dallah, can no longer make a living. He talks about the days their catches exceeded 700kg a day “of every fish your heart desires”, when the only limit on fishing zones were as far as the eye could see. A new port would mean better equipment, modern storage facilities for importing and exporting fish, and assuming Israeli restrictions are lifted, improved catches.