Palestinians Put New Emphasis on Exports to Buoy Their Economy

Palestinians inaugurated what they are calling their first export strategy, reasoning that more trade will boost the economy and decrease dependence on foreign aid.

“This strategy will help Palestinians in their quest for economic resilience, trade in new markets and create new jobs,” said Palestinian International Trade Center head Arancha Gonzalez at a ceremony in the West Bank city of Ramallah. “Exports from Palestine more than doubled from 2009 to 2013, but are still offset by the import of its basic essentials, leaving it reliant on international donors.”

Palestinian exports totaled $865 million in 2014, according to preliminary figures from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. The push toward greater economic independence coincides with a diplomatic offensive for recognition of an independent state of Palestine.

The multiyear plan focuses on improving trade logistics, easing access to finance, establishing quality controls, and providing more trade information. It sets specific export targets for key product sectors, including stone and marble, olive oil, fruits and vegetables, textiles, footwear and furniture.

The Palestinians want to diversify their foreign markets beyond immediate neighbors Israel, Egypt and Jordan, which together account for about 75 percent of exports. Israel alone accounts for 63 percent, which “underscores the importance of the Israeli market but also the need to explore opportunities for market diversification,” the report said. The goal is to increase the export sector at an annual average rate of 13 percent, according to the report.

Increasing exports will require contending with Israeli security restrictions on the flow of goods and people both within and outside the West Bank, and overcoming the shaky finances of the ruling Palestinian Authority.

Israeli security restrictions “continue to stand in the way of potential private investment,” while “fiscal pressures threaten the provision of public services and the institutional development gains by the Palestinian Authority,” the World Bank said in a March 31 overview.

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