There is no way this plan can go forward without Israel’s agreement. There is no doubt it will involve the development of parts of Area C, again with Israel’s agreement. Finally, I believe it will go forward with or without negotiations. Ted Belman
Concrete details of scheme to boost stagnant Palestinian economy, drafted by team of international experts, being kept under wraps until peace talks with Israelis resume
Behind the scenes, a team of international experts have for months been working on a plan to boost the stagnant Palestinian economy, set to be launched if peace talks with the Israelis resume.
US Secretary of State John Kerry unveiled the broad contours of the scheme to attract some $4 billion in private-sector investment over the next three years at a World Economic Forum in Jordan in late May.
But decades of frustrations and disappointments mean the concrete details are being kept under wraps until there is an agreement to resume the talks, stalled since September 2010.
The hope is that, hand in hand with movement on the political front, the scheme could sew tangible economic benefits on the ground to alleviate dire unemployment and poverty for the Palestinians.
Kerry said business experts had been working to make the project “real, tangible and shovel-ready,” adding an initial analysis had predicted “stunning” results.
These included boosting the Palestinian GDP by as much as 50% over three years and cutting unemployment from 21% to 8%.
But similarly ambitious US-led plans by past administrations have faltered, and a blanket of secrecy has been thrown up as Quartet special envoy Tony Blair and his team hammer out the details with the aid of international experts.
Critics say the vague details may signal a lack of substance. But others believe the need for secrecy is in part due to concerns on the Palestinian side that any so-called “economic peace” would sideline efforts to seal a two-state peace deal with Israel.
“The Palestinian leadership will not offer political concessions in exchange for economic benefits,” insisted Mohammad Mustafa, president of the Palestine Investment Fund, a day after Kerry’s announcement.
Part of the aim, though, is to wean the Palestinian economy off its dependence on donor handouts, sources told AFP.
Cuts in donor aid
After several years of what the World Bank called “robust growth,” the Palestinian economy has slowed since 2012, hit by a fall in aid amid international fatigue at the moribund peace process.
The basis for Palestinian economic growth “is largely donor support, which in the long term is not sustainable. And it is really job creation that is needed,” said Mariam Sherman, World Bank country director for the West Bank and Gaza.
“We would like to see greater private sector investment,” she told AFP.
The International Monetary Fund said last week that Palestinian growth was expected to slow to about 4.25% this year down from about 11% in 2010 and 2011.