WASHINGTON -– A group of Palestinian and Israeli private sector representatives presented today a joint Declaration at a Conference on “Promoting Economic Growth in the West Bank and Gaza through the Private Sector” in London. The conference was co-hosted by the World Bank and the United Kingdom Treasury.
The Declaration identified priority areas, such as security, movement of goods, protection of investors, legal and regulatory reform and private sector participation in revitalizing the economy. The Working Group met for the first time last week in Jerusalem to discuss issues of common interest and develop a joint position on matters of economic development.
The Declaration stressed the role of good governance, transparency and accountability in supporting business. As such, the private sectors called for efficient Government that is responsive to the needs of local and international investors, a clear and reliable regulatory framework, and a responsible fiscal policy that does not crowd out private investment.
The Declaration was signed by members of the Working Group in the presence of Gordon Brown, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Christiaan Poortman, Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa Region at the World Bank, Mazen Sinokrot, Minister of National Economy, Palestinian National Authority and Joseph Bachar, Director General of Ministry of Finance, Israel. It emphasized the private sector as the driving force for economic growth and development in the West Bank and Gaza, and identified key priorities, including: reducing physical impediments; increasing reliability and efficiency of movement of goods and people within the area and with neighbors; identifying measures to protect the activities of investors and their businesses; and reducing the legal and regulatory obstacles to investment by local and international investors.
The Working Group emphasized the benefits of joint Israeli-Palestinian cooperation across a number of sectors, including industry, infrastructure, agriculture, tourism, information and communications technology and logistics services. They called for special attention to Small and Medium-sized enterprises by making financial incentives available. Moreover, they called for public-private partnerships in infrastructure, including the seaport and airport in Gaza, a reliable road infrastructure.
The representatives also appealed to their governments, the international community, the Quartet and the World Bank to implement the agreements and put in place procedures and technologies for the access of people and goods across borders and to markets.
“Providing an environment for the private sector to flourish in is one of the most important things that we can do to bring peace, prosperity and employment to the West Bank and Gaza” says Christiaan Poortman, Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa Region. “Given the extent of trade between the West Bank and Gaza and Israel, it benefits both parties to have a regime that provides efficient and secure movement of goods. This tells us that balancing trade facilitation and security is not a zero-sum game, but rather a win-win scenario for both Israelis and Palestinians.”
Moving forward, the Working Group called for the establishment of a steering committee to meet with the governments and donors on a regular basis. The Working Group requested that the World Bank facilitate the activities of the Steering Committee in implementing the points outlined in the declaration.