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Palestinian-US economic talks held in Ramallah

May 21, 2016 6:10 P.M. (Updated: May 23, 2016 4:47 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Senior Palestinian and American officials gathered in Ramallah on Sunday to renew US-Palestinian economic dialogue, according to a statement from the US Consulate General office in Jerusalem.

The first such meeting to be held in over a decade was headed by Palestinian Economy Minister Abeer Odeh and US Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Charles Rivkin.

“Participants recognized areas of mutual interest in the bilateral economic relationship and pledged to continue expanding and deepening policy coordination and cooperation across a broad range of sectors in order to expand Palestinian prosperity,” the statement read.

The topics discussed included enhancing Palestinian trade, the growth of natural resource sectors, promoting entrepreneurship in the IT sector, and improving water and energy resource management. 

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation -- the US government’s development finance institution -- described possibilities for financing in the renewable energy field, following the corporation’s recent renewal of a $100 million loan guarantee facility to foster job creation at small and medium enterprises.

The delegation also met with representatives of the Palestinian business community who described the challenges and opportunities facing the private sector in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The statement added that the two sides agreed to reconvene in Washington, D.C. in the Spring of 2017.
A report released in April by the World Bank found that the Palestinian Authority was losing up to $285 million a year under its current economic arrangements with Israel.

The current revenue sharing arrangements as outlined by the Paris Protocol -- through which Israel collects VAT, import taxes, and other revenues on behalf of the PA -- "have not been systematically implemented," the World Bank said.

Tax leakages on bilateral trade with Israel and undervaluation of Palestinian imports from third countries accounted for the multi-million dollar losses in revenue, according to the report. 

The report also noted the poor state of the Palestinian economy and the need "to stimulate growth in an economy that is not growing enough to raise living standards or reduce high unemployment."

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the average unemployment rate in the occupied Palestinian territory was 26 percent in 2015: in the occupied West Bank, unemployment stood at 17 percent, compared to a staggering 41 percent in the besieged Gaza Strip.
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