On Saturday, December 5, 2009, the delegation visited World Bank-supported development projects in the West Bank, including visit to the Palestine Polytechnic University in Hebron which demonstrated impressive accomplishments financed out of the Quality Improvement Fund under the Tertiary Education Project. “The Fund has a great impact on the capacity building of the university and creates incentives for improvements in quality of academic programs, research and community services”, said Ms.Akhtar, Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa.
The tour also included meetings with private sector representatives and visits to private enterprises in Hebron and Bethlehem cities with export potential. “The World Bank Group is increasing its efforts to provide Palestinian businesses with the support required to expand and develop their business ventures,” said Mr. Kaldany, IFC Vice President. “Investment is key to creating jobs and reducing unemployment. The World Bank Group encourages both new investors and those considering scaling up current activities”, added Mr. Bond, MIGA Chief Operating Officer. The team noted that while growth is modest, the trend could have been much higher if the private sector were allowed to realize its potential through the removal of movement and access restrictions.
Ms. Akhtar, Vice President for the Middle East, met with the Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. “We are here to support the Palestinian Authority's efforts to improve public financial management and strengthen its fiscal position, two fundamental pillars of Prime Minister Fayyad’s plan for the establishment of a Palestinian State,” said Ms. Akhtar. The delegation discussed with Palestinian officials the Palestine Reform and Development Plan and substantial institutional development activities.
On Sunday, December 6, 2009, Ms. Akhtar launched the multi-donor funded Municipal Development Program along with the Prime Minister. The program is an excellent example of donor coordination and harmonization where the Bank has played a leading role in convening five additional donors to support the program. Ms. Akhtar said, “The program identifies two key areas of support; first, the capital investments are determined with citizen participation and based on priorities set by municipalities; and second, technical assistance is provided to address management and governance challenges."
The delegation members visited Gaza to discuss reconstruction and development issues with municipal, utility, and NGO representatives. The members learned about the movement and access concerns, the need for basic infrastructure and private sector revitalization. They also inspected progress on the donor-financed North Gaza Emergency Sewage Treatment project, a critical project that depleted the sewage lake at Beit Lahia and averted a potential human and environment disaster. “We reiterate our commitment to development in Gaza which continues to suffer from critical economic and humanitarian situation. Poverty and unemployment remain crucial issues for the donor community to address,” said Merza Hasan, Executive Director for the Middle East.
At the end of the visit, the delegation members conveyed the Bank Group commitment to support the economic and social agenda of the Palestinian Authority. The World Bank Group support to West Bank and Gaza has developed steadily over the years and is quite broad based, involving substantial advisory services.