Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service
Georgetown University, Class of 2013
HCEF’s annual International Conference has always addressed complex and stimulating issues in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This year’s conference, however, included a dimension never examined before – an Investment Forum: Business Opportunities and the Investing Environment in Palestine!
This new aspect proved to be an advantageous addition, as Palestinian businessmen, investors, and entrepreneurs mingled with HCEF supporters and other and others at the conference and discussed the expanding investment opportunities in Palestine. In a more formal setting consisting of two separate sessions, 8 of these successful Palestinian businessmen participated in a moderated panel discussions.
Human Security: Can Freedom and Prosperity be Advanced in the Holy Land,” was the kick off session catapulting this dynamic and power packed forum! Mr. Youssef Habesch, Country Officer, Middle East & North Africa, International Finance Corporation, World Bank Group, served a moderator for this panel discussion. Mr. Hashim Hani Shawa, Bank of Palestine Board Chairman and General Manager, Dr. Juan Jose Daboub, Chief Executive Officer, The Global Adaptation Institute; Former Managing Director, World Bank and Dr. Howard Sumka, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator, Middle East Bureau, US Agency for International Development (USAID) served as panelists, each eloquently addressing the importance of investing in people, expanding cooperation at all levels and exploring job creation and micro credit financing programs for housing rehabilitation to stimulate self sufficiency.
The investing Environment and Business Opportunities workshop commenced with panel moderator Mr. Faris Hadad-Zervos, Adviser at to the Fragile and Conflict-Affected Countries Group (OPCFCO) of the World Bank. Mr. Hadad-Zervos launched the panel by highlighting three important themes to keep in mind throughout the discussion: (a) the fact that the Palestinian economy, too, is under occupation; (b) the persistence of Palestinian entrepreneurship; and (c) the fertile investment environment in Palestine. As a final note, he reminded the audience of the importance of the Palestinian Diaspora as a resource, and began to introduce the speakers.
Dr. Samir Hazboun, Chair of the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Executive Director of DATA, a research and consulting institute in Bethlehem, was joined by Mr. Hashim Hani Shawa and Mr. Youssef Habesch.
Although Dr. Hazboun began by addressing the challenges facing the Palestinian private sector, his talk developed an overall positive and hopeful attitude about the Palestinian business environment. Mr. Habesch, shared specifically from an international investor’s perspective, characterizing the Palestinian private sector as “remarkable resilient,” citing World Bank Group findings that Palestine is in the top 15% of countries in terms of tax regime and in the top 25% in legal framework to protect investors. Mr. Shawa, in his address, provided a plethora of examples of Palestine’s business boom, specifically noting the global investing community’s interest in Palestinian firms and the successes of these firms despite turbulence in the region. He echoed Mr. Hadad-Zervos’ point about the diaspora’s link to their homeland and stressed the importance of tourism for Palestine’s economy.
Additionally, Mr. Shawa announced his personal support for, and the Bank of Palestine’s financial funding of HCEF’s “Know Thy Heritage” Program and its Ecumenical Center for Research and Development (ECRD) Guest House in Bethlehem and the Micro Financing Loan for Housing Rehabilitation in Partnership with and support of HCEF’s Housing Rehabilitation Program.
Other esteemed businessmen, including Mr. Ammar Acker, CEO of the Paltel Group, Mr. Ziad Anabtawi, CEO of the Anabtawi Group, Eng. Muneif Treish; General Manager, Al Reehan Real Estate Investment Company all gave outstanding presentations in support of cooperating together to build Palestine’s investment sector, laying the foundation for the development of a strengthened economy. In addition to the speakers, several videos presented the booming Palestinian telecommunications sector, the Palestinian Investment Fund’s housing programs, and the importance of Palestinians buying back the land of their investors.
The investment forum was a remarkable and distinctive part of this 12th Internat ional Conference on the Holy Land. HCEF greatly appreciates the presence of all the representatives of the Palestinian financial sector, especially in light of their commitment to travel from Palestine to the United States for such a noble and worthy cause. It is through the perseverance and dedication of men such as these, that the way is paved for future involvement in and development of the Holy Land and its inhabitants.
To hear the sessions of the 12th International Conference and the Investment Forum held in the Context of the Conference, or to learn more about HCEF and its programs please visit us at www.hcef.org
MARK YOUR CALENDAR!
HCEF’s 13th International Conference
October 28-29, 2011
The National Presbyterian Church
4101 Nebraska Avenue
Washington, DC 20016