The “MAS Economic Conference 2016 Closing Statement”

PNN/ Ramallah/

On Thursday September 8th, 2016, Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute- MAS announced at the closing session of the “MAS Economic Conference 2016” entitled: “Towards a New Vision for the Revival of the Palestinian Economy”, the final Closing Statement agreed at the Conference.

Convened under the auspices of the Palestinian Prime Minister Dr. Rami Al-Hamdallah and with attendance from all active sectors of the economy in Palestine, the Conference concluded by adopting a set of proposed practical policies and measure that were elaborated through a process of research and dialogue undertaken by Palestinian experts, economists and academics.

The fourteen flagship recommendations announced at the Conference were part of a larger package submitted to government and other private and civic society stakeholders in order to redress the socio-economic challenges, enhance the resilience of the Palestinian national economy, and enable Palestinian society and institutions to safeguard their capacity to forge towards independence and sovereignty.

In his statement to the Conference, Prime Minister Dr. Rami Al-Hamdallah announced the establishment of a “permanent framework for strategic partnership for steadfastness and national construction” to engage all concerned actors in developing the national economy to follow up the Conference recommendations and ensure their implementation.

The key assumptions of our approach are:

  1. As it stands in the Palestinian context, the interventions needed for comprehensive economic reforms in a developing country – albeit theoretically possible – are beyond the available resources.
  2. Some necessary reforms may not be possible under the current political context.
  3. Since carrying out comprehensive reforms that eliminate all distortions is the only guaranteed means of improving welfare – an unrealistic prospect in the Palestinian case – there is a need to pursue a diagnostic approach that identifies the most binding constraints that restrict the development of the economy and take the actions necessary to neutralize such constraints in the short to medium term.

The MAS priority policies and interventions that apply to all the occupied Palestinian territories, namely:

  1. Tapping the legal and technical margins available in the Paris Protocol on Economic Relations to make the most of the existing trade regime, particularly: producing accurate estimates of the needs of the Palestinian market; encouraging direct imports; making use of trade agreements concluded with third countries; strengthening cooperation among importers; building a consolidated shipping system in order to reduce the costs of shipping and import; setting up bonded warehouses; and connecting companies and industrial zones to the computerized customs system.
  1. Increasing the area of registered land through enhancing the legal framework in order to facilitate registration, land settlement, and parcellation; and protecting Palestinian absentees’ property while encouraging them to return to and invest in their homeland.
  1. Narrowing the social gaps through an inter-ministerial systematic action so as to: fight poverty and develop education, health care, and employment services; implement the Minimum Wage Law; narrow the economic and developmental gaps between regions through decentralized regional planning and local development together with building the necessary administrative capacity; foster socioeconomic resilience, especially in Jerusalem; and create a coordinating body for the Jerusalem institutions as a reference for the City’s socio-economic planning and special programs.
  1. Introducing reforms into compulsory education curricula; diversifying investment in post-compulsory and secondary education; encouraging and expanding technical and vocational education and training; promoting collaborative training programs and partnerships with the private sector and trade unions to identify the human skills needed in the economy; building a supply-demand database for the labor market with emphasis on the youth and new graduates; and intensifying efforts and initiatives that enhance women’s participation in the labor force and enable them to realize fully their role in economic development.
  1. Designing and enacting industrial policies that are consistent with the financial and trade policies and take into consideration all the requirements for supporting the industrial sector, stimulating investment, and promoting productive capacity. This should be accompanied with procedures designed to protect budding industries, as well as by measures that ensure compliance with the Palestinian standards and a strong system of quality control of goods. The infrastructure necessary for industries should also be developed.
  1. Establishing a formal permanent partnership framework that brings together representatives of all key Palestinian economic players in order to institutionalize and intensify cooperation in matters relating to designing development policies; formulating trade policies pertaining to  international conventions; launching investment initiatives; harnessing the private sector’s expertise in the implementation of projects and providing services; and developing Palestinian models to put the concepts of corporate social responsibility into practice.
  1. Fostering local products and realigning government policies so as to stimulate further investment in the productive sectors, maintain the unity and contiguity of the local market, support exports, and design regulations that can  instill order  in the  agricultural production market;  developing the  infrastructure that is required for the provision of such services as  sorting, packaging, storage, and distribution of agricultural crops, together with building a refrigerated storage system for fruits and vegetables as well as silos for storing grain so as to ensure the continuous availability of these products and the stability of their prices.
  1. Enhancing the management capacity of staff working in governmental economic, regulatory, and supervisory positions; creating a one-stop-shop system for trade and investment procedures; assigning commercial attachés at the Palestinian embassies to provide information that would attract tourism and investment; creating specialized courts (insurance, land, property rights, labor, money laundering, etc.); providing extensive training to court staff specialized in dispute settlements; speeding up commercial arbitration and litigation procedures; and enhancing confidence in the judicial system through speedy implementation of court rulings and the provisions of the law.
  1. Strengthening the Palestinian tourism support system, especially in Jerusalem; encouraging investments in tourism by providing incentives, training, and technical support; activating the Palestinian Higher Tourism Council, which should have a strong representation of the private sector, and augmenting its professional staff for a greater capacity to exercise control over the quality of services and classification in accordance with international standards; and building the capacity of tourism staff across the different stages of the value chain.
  1. Implementing priority medium-term projects in power generation (fossil fuel and renewable resources), water (desalination), environment (conservation of the coastal aquifer and treatment of solid waste and waste water), transport and communications (public transportation), construction and housing – all within the framework of the national spatial plans, particularly in the Gaza Strip, and through partnership between the public and private sectors.
  1. Developing the energy sector’s regulatory framework and  separating policy-making and control functions; developing energy specifications and  standards system; stimulating investment in renewable energy sources; and raising public awareness of the need to conserve energy and to reduce leakage.
  1. Building new water networks as needed; maintaining and upgrading the existing networks; and raising public awareness of the issues related to saving water.
  1. Reorganizing the construction and housing sector through: enacting new legislations that classify related professions; training of workers in the sector and licensing them; creating a comprehensive database and publishing periodic statistics on housing availability, especially for low-income households; amending the Landlord-Tenant Law; and providing mortgage services for long periods to enable low-income individuals to access credit services.
  1. Enacting fiscal policies that drive investment in the  productive sectors, such that development-oriented policies are reflected  in the fiscal and general budget policies; enabling broader participation in the discussion of the general budget towards greater transparency in its preparation and implementation; continuing the efforts to expand the tax base and increase revenue; enhancing the capacity of the Customs Control Department; and fighting against dumping, smuggling, and tax evasion.
  1. Building and enhancing confidence in the financial and banking sectors; attracting Palestinian expatriate capital; adopting lending policies that stimulate growth; promoting trade, investment, and financial linkages between all parts of the Palestinian territory, especially between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank; developing and implementing the national strategy for financial inclusion; enacting lending policies that drive investment in the productive sectors and diminish lending that serves consumption; and introducing a financial instrument for medium- and long-term loans.

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