The Governor of The Palestine Monetary Authority (PMA), Dr. Feras Milhem, accompanied by his Deputy, Mr. Mohammad Manasrah, toured Bethlehem Governorate, as part of the tours to the governorates of Palestine, to find out about the economic reality.
The governor began his tour with a meeting with the Governor of Bethlehem, Major General Kamel Hamid who explained the economic reality in the Bethlehem Governorate and the challenges facing the governorate, especially with the Corona pandemic and the great damage it caused to the tourism sector.
The PMA Governor praised the steadfastness of the Bethlehem Governorate in the face of the economic challenges, stressing the interest of the PMA and the banking sector in developing the economic reality, which will be positively reflected on all sectors and segments in the governorate.
Dr. Milhem indicated that the value of the direct facilities granted in the Bethlehem governorate is about $572.5 million, the value of customers’ deposits is about $1,308.1 million, the number of banks branches in the Bethlehem governorate is 28 branches and offices, the number of branches of microfinance institutions is 5 branches, and the number of licensed money exchangers is 24, in addition to 5 branches of exchange companies, and it was noted that the number of bounced cheques returned from the branches of banks operating in the Bethlehem governorate in the year 2021 decreased by 53% compared to the year 2020, and this was accompanied by a decrease in the value of those Cheques by 40% in 2021 compared to 2020.
The PMA Governor also visited Bethlehem University and met with its president, Dr. Peter Bray, and the university’s vice president, Father Dr. Iyad Twal, and faculty members. The governor stressed the importance of cooperation with Palestinian universities to spread banking culture and knowledge among students, and the need to prepare them for digital development and financial technology, due to the importance of this segment in the Palestinian society to enhance financial inclusion. The visit included a tour of the university, during which Father Dr. Iyad Twal, introduced the PMA Governor to the most prominent facilities of the university.
The PMA Governor visited the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Bethlehem Governorate and met with the Head of the Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Samir Hazboun and the members of the Board of Directors and briefed them on the latest developments in the Palestinian banking sector and the efforts of the PMA to maintain financial stability in Palestine.
Dr. Feras Milhem stressed that the PMA is interested in development, and launched the Sustainability Fund (Istidamah), which includes support for micro and very small projects, and the Bethlehem Governorate has benefited from the Fund, as the capital of the enterprises that have received contributions to their sustainability, covering their operating expenses and financing their capital through the loans approved in the Bethlehem region amounted to approximately $21.5 million.
The total number of workers and employees who received contributions to maintaining their work and the sustainability of the facilities in which they work in the Bethlehem region, based on the requests that were approved, amounted to about 801 employees, indicating that the largest percentage of the facilities granted in the Bethlehem region is concentrated in the tourism sector, which accounted for 43%, followed by the commercial sector, which accounted for 30% of the facilities.
He added that the PMA launched the (Monshati) platform as a national framework to provide guidance services and specialized technical and administrative support, and to facilitate access to available funding sources to support and develop micro, very small, small, and medium enterprises, in order to develop their businesses through uniting national efforts and creating a wide network of partners in the public and private sectors who are interested in developing these facilities, as they are the backbone of the Palestinian economy and the largest component in it.
Dr. Hazboun reviewed the difficult conditions that Bethlehem Governorate has been experiencing since the start of the Corona pandemic and the damage to the tourism sector, which negatively affected all economic sectors.
The governor listened to the problems that the merchants suffer from in their relationship with banks, including their demand to expand some banking services in areas in the governorate and to develop the Monshati platform, and he promised to follow up and work on solving them and urging and directing banks to provide multiple services to businessmen and the public.
The governor referred to the tireless efforts made by the PMA in establishing the necessary infrastructure for digital transformation and electronic payment, which will contribute significantly to solving the problems of merchants and citizens, calling on merchants and all economic sectors to benefit from the advanced systems of the PMA, especially the Credit Inquiry System in the conduct of their trade and their business.