On Wednesday 22 February, 2017, Bank of Palestine, in cooperation with the Japanese Government, the Palestinian Industrial Estate and Free Zone Authority, and the Jericho Agro-Industrial Park organized a meeting to provide a brief on the services provided by the Jericho Agro-Industrial Park and available investment opportunities. The meeting was held at the Jericho Agro-Industrial Park headquarters in the presence of Dr. Muhammed Ishtayeh, the Chairman of the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction (PECDAR), Mr. Takeshi Okubo, the Ambassador of Japan to Palestine, Mr. Rushdi Ghalayini, Deputy General Manager at Bank of Palestine, Dr. Ali Shaath, Chief Executive Office of the Palestinian Industrial Estate and Free Zone Authority, Mr. Hatem Yousef, the General Manager of the Jericho Agro-Industrial Park, a group of businessmen and women and investors from various Palestinian governorates, in addition to journalists and media persons.

The briefing shed light on one aspect of services provided by the Jericho Agro-Industrial Park and available investment opportunities for persons wishing to establish a project or invest in one of the industries or agro-industries. The meeting also presented the obstacles and challenges that confront small projects and ways to overcome them, as well as access to available funding sources. The area involved is a distinguished one since it offers investors all their needs in terms of infrastructure, from telecommunication, electricity, water, internet connection, security, licensing services and banking service through a special office for Bank of Palestine, which will be opened in the very near future. The area is also strategic because of its proximity to the Jordanian border, thus decreasing transportation costs and encouraging and promoting commerce with the outside world.

Mr. Rushdi Ghalayini, the Deputy General Manager at Bank of Palestine, stressed the importance of small and medium size projects in solving the issue of unemployment and poverty through the participation of the government, the private sector, civil society and international friends. He pointed out that according to studies and international experiences, small and medium sized projects are the main drivers for the economies of many countries around the world. He added that there is a total of eight projects in the Jericho Agro-Industrial Park, and their funding has reached six million dollars, pointing out that the value of the credit portfolio for small projects at Bank of Palestine reached approximately 400 million dollars, expressing the bank’s readiness to raise the value of this portfolio by 200 million to equal a total of 600 million dollars.

Ghalayini stated that following the launching of industrial areas, the responsibility that remains is to build trust in our Palestinian industries, by promoting them, increasing their size and diversifying them, considering their uniqueness and high quality that enabled them to compete with products imported from abroad. Ghalayini ensured the bank’s commitment to opening an office that provides various services, including funding services to investors in the Jericho Agro-Industrial Park. The office will also involve the appointment of qualified staff to provide non-financial consulting services and fast credit policies. In conclusion, Ghalayini praised the Japanese experience, emphasizing that Japan is a source of inspiration to many countries, and the Japanese experience tops all those around the world in terms of growth and economic and scientific advancement. He expressed hope that the government of Japan will assist in bringing Japanese companies to promote the production capacity of Palestinian companies, and for the latter to learn from the Japanese experience and expertise on all levels. Ghalayini called upon Japanese companies to open branches in Palestine, where a workforce is available along with the appropriate investment environment.

The Japanese Ambassador Mr. Takeshi Okubo, welcomed the guests and hailed the efforts conducted by Bank of Palestine in encouraging small and medium sized projects, as well as supporting the national economy. He added that Japan is working will all companies to develop the Palestinian economy, and stressed the dire need for the private sector where small and medium sized companies play an important role in pushing the wheel of economic development forward, in addition to developing the industrial and agricultural sectors. Okubo also stated that the Japanese government provided financial and technical services, as well and human resources to support the pilot project at the Jericho Agro-Industrial Park, which falls under the umbrella of the Japanese initiative “Corridor for Peace and Prosperity,” which was launched by the Japanese Government in 2006. The aim of the said project is to build a country with a sustainable economy, focusing on the private sector in the Jericho Agro-Industrial Park.

 

The Japanese Ambassador also pointed out that small and medium sized companies significantly contribute to promoting economic growth, creating job opportunities and increasing productivity, referring to the many examples that present Japan’s contribution to economic development all over the world. Okubo added that small projects in Japan constitute around 99.7% of the Japanese economy, and for that reason they are considered it backbone. He expressed his trust in the abilities and capacities of Palestinian companies, on the level of workers’ skills, high spirits and level of education, that continue to flourish despite political and security restrictions.

PECDAR Chairman, Dr. Muhammed Ishtayeh, also praised the efforts of the Japanese Ambassador and the assistance thy provided to the Palestinian economy so that it becomes a lever for politics and the establishment of the State of Palestine on a strong base, and referred to the several political obstacles that hinder the building of that state. He added that the Jordan Valley area in particular constitutes about 28% of the West Bank, and that it is a fertile area that represents the bread basket Palestine. Ishtayeh stressed the importance of promoting the quality of national products and increasing the quantity to agricultural produce, considering that agriculture used to represent 42% of the national economy in 1967, when it only represents 4% today. He also stressed the importance of providing competitive Palestinian products by promoting the role of industrial areas to protect national products and ensure the success of the boycott, as well as promoting the export of products from agro-industrial areas. All these efforts, according to Ishtayeh, pave the way to stimulate the Palestinian economy, and need to be followed by many steps in the future. Addressing the owners of small projects as being the basis of the development process, Ishtayeh expressed his hope that the Jericho Agro-Industrial Park will record in the very near future a success story on the national and regional levels. He added that the country does not solely depend on the government, the private sector or civil society in its building and development, but also on the contribution of its citizens.

Ishtayeh also addressed the possibilities of protecting small projects from political risks because such projects will contribute to protecting investment in Palestine.

Dr. Ali Shaath, the CEO of the Palestinian Industrial Estate and Free Zone Authority, stressed the economic importance of the Jericho Agro-Industrial Park for what it may contribute to increasing the size of exports, providing job opportunities, contributing to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), attracting both internal and external investments, and transferring advanced technologies in industries.

Dr. Shaath also addressed incentive and exemptions provided by the government to agro-industrial areas and free zones, among them decreasing tax rates and customs, providing the proper infrastructure from facilities, roads and basic services by simplifying procedures, such as the entry and exit of goods, registration processes, etc., all of which will encourage both local and foreign investors to seek investment opportunities in these areas. He also stated that the approximate area of the Jericho Agro-Industrial Park is 615 thousand squared meters, upon which four factories currently operate, and a total of seven other factories are being prepared. He added that a total of 42 contracts have been signed with investors during the first phase of the project over an area of 140 thousand meters, which covers 85% of areas available for rental.

Taking into consideration the important location of the Jericho Agro-Industrial Park as a link for diversifying trade with the Arab World and decreasing the dependence of the Palestinian economy, Mr. Hatem Yousef, the General Manager of the Jericho Agro-Industrial Park, called upon the transformation of the area into a free industrial zone that adopts economic, financial, administrative and tax-related regulations followed in the Aqaba region. Mr. Yousef pointed out that the economic expectation for the area will witness notable future revitalization and considerable development in the fields of food and agricultural industries and other industries, clarifying that the area can contribute to creating a total of 9,000 job opportunities, in addition to developing Palestinian industries that will replace imported goods, whose costs are estimated at 350 million dollars annually. This, according to Yousef, calls upon the importance of providing support and expanding the industrial city in a manner that contributes to pushing the developmental wheel forward and decreasing the deficit in the balance of trade.

Mr. Yousef guaranteed the commitment of the Jericho Agro-Industrial Park, in cooperation with the Government of Japan and the General Authority of industrial areas to provide technical and administrative support programs for investors and employees working in the fields of planning, leadership, development and increasing productivity and marketing. On top of that, he stressed the continuous efforts to invest in the fields of alternative energy, water, and commercial services and logistics that aim to decrease costs for producers within industrial cities and promote their competitive capacities to penetrate regional markets.