The Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute (MAS) convened the second of a series of four preparatory meetings leading to the planned MAS Economic Conference to be held in the summer of 2016 under the theme: “Towards a New Vision for the Revival of the Palestinian Economy”.
This second closed technical symposium focused on a discussion paper entitled: “Socio-Economic Landscape: Curbing Unemployment, Poverty Alleviation and Bridging Social Gaps”.
The symposium was attended by a group of 30 experts from government, academia, the private sector, and the civil society. The session was moderated by Ms. Ola Awad, President of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), while the discussion paper was presented by Dr. Luay Shabaneh, Regional Director of the Arab States Regional Office, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in his personal capacity as an expert. Panel discussants included Mr. Shawqi Al-Aissa, former Minister of Social Affairs; Dr. Maher Al-Natsheh, Acting President at An-Najah University; and Dr. Samia Al-Botmeh, Professor of Economics at Birzeit University. The discussion focused on identifying the most pressing socio-economic problems and the optimal means to mitigate their adverse effects on society. The ensuing discussions revolved around the appropriate policies and tools to address the challenges of social development notwithstanding the ongoing occupation and the expanding settlement enterprise.
Dr. Nabeel Kassis, Director General of MAS, emphasized that the key objective of this topical symposium is the need to examine new models of dealing with the most pressing current developmental challenges in Palestine, in order to create concrete solutions which address poverty and unemployment as well as economic and regional inequalities. Dr. Kassis added that the symposium paper and the resulting discussion comprise valuable contributions to the upcoming MAS Economic Conference 2016. The Conference will be dedicated to addressing key, urgent issues impacting Palestinians’ livelihood and inhibiting economic revival, through taking stock of pressing challenges to socio-economic development in the short and medium terms in tandem with efforts towards national liberation.
On the vision of the planned conference, Dr. Kassis said: ”This nationally owned and inspired Conference is premised on the need to achieve national consensus towards an economy of self-reliance, without – however – relieving the occupation authorities from their obligations as stipulated by international law and while maintaining the obligations of the international community with regards to the question of Palestine. The Conference seeks to put forward the right policies and tools that can help empower the national economy and its productive sectors; raise the bar on essential services required to improve the standard of living; and provide comprehensive access to such services, particularly for the socially and geographically marginalized segments of the society. To achieve such a vision, we need to exert more effort to boost public-private partnerships, including more participation by the Palestinian Diaspora in economic planning, investment, and implementation of a common vision that can achieve concrete results and break the existing Israeli stranglehold on the economy.”
Mr. Raja Khalidi, Research Coordinator at MAS and Conference Coordinator, highlighted the importance of these brainstorming sessions preceding the Conference, a form for a candid and well-informed national dialogue on the economy. Mr. Khalidi commented: “The diagnostic and remedial nature of the discussions is ideal for building the most pertinent agenda for the MAS Conference 2016. This process allows pinpointing those challenges that can be remedied in the medium-term with the aim of alleviating the socio-economic pressures on the most impoverished sections of the population within the context of a nationally generated vision for economic revitalization.“
Mr. Khalidi advised that the paper discussed in this symposium dealt with economic and human development indicators in Palestine, especially those showing entrenched unemployment and poverty among the most vulnerable sectors– youth and women. The paper also examined the widening socio-economic disparities by social strata and geographic area, accessibility to services for marginalized groups, and the relation between educational outputs and market needs. The discussion analyzed current socio-economic policies and opportune ways of linking national efforts in this regard with the Sustainable Development Initiative adopted by UN member states and by the State of Palestine in 2015.
MAS convened the first symposium in the series in late April and will hold the remaining two symposiums leading up to the Conference in May. The next discussion will focus on improving the business enabling environment and the regulatory reforms needed to enhance businesses in addition to measures to enhance Palestinian access to international trade.