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Tony Blair on Middle East talks: Economics goes side by side with politics
Quartet Representative Tony Blair met today with a high-level UK business delegation to discuss the latest plans to kick-start Palestinian economic growth.
The discussion followed a bi-lateral meeting with UK Prime Minister David Cameron in Jerusalem, and forms part of the ongoing work to catalyse private sector-led growth in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, as part of the Initiative for the Palestinian Economy (IPE).
Mr. Blair told them that the IPE is “a very ambitious plan for changing the Palestinian economy.” Meeting with the delegation at a crucial time in the negotiations for a framework agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, he added that “it is important to put the economics in the context of how the politics and economics are supposed to work together. There is never any substitute for the political process. Economics cannot take the place of politics. On a deeper level, unless the political process moves forward, the economics tends to bound up with the political difficulties.” He explained that “what we're trying to do with this initiative is to do something a little different,” adding that now, “the United States and international community see the economics going side by side with the politics in a more detailed and more significant way than ever before.”
The IPE is the result of intensive evaluation by a team of policy advisors, economic analysts and international domain experts under the leadership of Mr. Blair, and in support of renewed Palestinian-Israeli political negotiations.
The Quartet Representative praised the resilience of the Palestinian business community, saying that despite all the challenges over the years, remarkable things have already been achieved. He said that the Palestinian economy had a number of advantages, including the fact that the Palestinian business community offers great opportunities for partnership, a stock exchange that does well, and a banking system in relatively good shape. He also pointed out that the Palestinian government wants to encourage investment, and that the people are eager to make it work. Mr. Blair added that the private sector is at the heart of the IPE, and those who have come and invested in the Palestinian economy have done well.
Minister of State for Trade and Investment Lord Livingston led the business delegation, which included representatives from GlaxoSmithKline, the London Stock Exchange, ASOS, TalkTalk Group, KiWi Power and others. Lord Livingstone told the delegation that the UK was a great believer in the potential for the Palestinian economy to grow, and that there was still so much more that could be achieved.
Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa also addressed the meeting, laying out some of the constraints faced by the Palestinians, as well as highlighting the unrealised potential of the Palestinian economy. “We need to, as Palestinians, do our best to leverage it and develop it further, so we can create not only a strong, independent state, but also economic independence,” he said, going on to stress the importance of Israel taking vital measures to enable the Palestinian economy. Dr Mustafa added that his government sees the future Palestinian state as an important component not just of the regional economy, but also of the global economy.” He said that the Palestinian Authority knows that the way forward must be through private sector-led growth. The Palestinians have worked very hard to make the best of the resources they have, he said, and through “perseverance, resilience and determination” they will ensure that the economy goes from strength to strength.
The Jerusalem-based Office of the Quartet Representative (OQR) is spearheading the initiative, which is designed to bring about transformative change and substantial growth in the Palestinian economy, as well as creating tens of thousands of jobs. The plan rests on three key components: the private sector, international financial institutions and “political enablers” that will remove restrictions and grant the Palestinian Authority wider access to resources and allow it more control over its affairs, allowing the Palestinian side to develop its capacity to make the economic plan a reality.
At Thursday’s meeting, policy advisors from the OQR set out the strategy for three of the eight sectors included in the IPE: Construction, ICT and light manufacturing. Other sectors included in the initiative are: agriculture, tourism, building materials, energy and water.
The meeting followed a major conference on the Initiative for the Palestinian Economy, held in Prague on the weekend. The conference brought together representatives from some 30 international organizations as well as Palestinian businesspeople, and laid out potential projects and opportunities for investors in the Palestinian territories.