Empowering Palestinians means delivering on promises

Experts discuss different aspects of senior White House adviser Jared Kushner’s proposed plans for economic uplift of Palestinians. (BNA)
Updated 27 June 2019
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Empowering Palestinians means delivering on promises

  • Unemployment is at 30 percent in the West Bank and 50 percent in the Gaza Strip
  • Kushner’s plan proposes investments of nearly $30 billion in the occupied Palestinian territories, and $20 billion in Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan

MANAMA: Jared Kushner’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan, unveiled this week at a conference in Bahrain, sets ambitious goals, including doubling Palestine’s gross domestic product and reducing its high unemployment rate to under 10 percent.

Unemployment is at 30 percent in the West Bank and 50 percent in the Gaza Strip, according to Christine Lagarde, managing director and chairman of the International Monetary Fund, who spoke at the conference.

Kushner’s plan proposes investments of nearly $30 billion in the occupied Palestinian territories, and $20 billion in Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan. 

But money alone will not be enough if people are not given opportunities to work and develop their own entrepreneurial skills, business leaders warned during a panel discussion entitled “Empowering the People.”

Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal Abbas moderated the panel, which featured four distinguished business leaders: Osama Al-Absi, CEO of the Bahrain Labor Market Regulatory Authority; Amadou Diallo, DHL’s CEO for the Middle East and Africa; Shiv Khemka, vice chairman of SUN Group Global; and Luis Alberto Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank.

Abbas praised Kushner’s “impressive and detailed” plan, but said “the political will must be there” for it to succeed.

Khemka said India has overcome similar challenges that Palestine faces, and “if the challenges can be overcome in India, they can be overcome anywhere.”

He added: “In India, we have 1.3 billion people, so we need to create 1.3 million jobs per month for the next 30 years. We have extreme poverty and wealth. We have all kinds of conflicts and all kinds of issues. If you start off with the assumption that the political will is there, then I think there’s no reason at all why this plan can’t succeed.”

Moreno said based on his visit to the West Bank, he believes that “the political will is present and can be nurtured” among Palestinians.

“A plan like this is only as good as the people who are willing to implement it,” he added. “The more important thing, in any case, is the political will to get behind something where people will eventually really build the potential for developing their own country.”

FASTFACTS

• Unemployment in West Best is at 30 percent and 50 percent in the Gaza Strip.

• Jared Kushner’s plan proposes investments of nearly $30 billion in the occupied Palestinian territories.

• The plan also seeks investments worth $20 billion in Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan.

Al-Absi, who helped reduce Bahrain’s unemployment rate from 17 percent to about 4 percent over 11 years, cautioned that the worst thing to do is to raise expectations and then not follow through.

“A pessimist is what an optimist calls a realist, and I’m a realist. It’s doable, but you have to approach this with a lot of practicality,” he said, describing Kushner’s plan as “very ambitious.”

Al-Absi added: “You’re going to come up with … a peace plan and an economic plan. You’re going to raise their (Palestinians’) expectations. You have to prepare them, otherwise, this can all go south.”

Diallo said: “How you create opportunity is by having leadership that has aspirations to change the way people live in their own communities.”

He added: “That has to be done locally because it can’t be done from outside. The people have to fight for that. I’ve seen that happen in Asia, in Pakistan, but also here in the region.”

He said: “How do you open up opportunities so people can fly in and out easily? How do you open up opportunities so goods can move in and out easily? You create entrepreneurs who have opportunities that are beyond their village and their city and are competing with everyone else, competing in the global world. That’s what I call inclusion.”


Emirati astronaut prepares to join elite Arab space club

Updated 23 min 44 sec ago
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Emirati astronaut prepares to join elite Arab space club

  • Hazza Al-Mansoori 'living a dream' as he and backup astronaut train for space mission in September
  • Soyuz-MS 15 launch could be the beginning of a bold new era of Arab exploration of space

DUBAI: More than 30 years after an Arab first journeyed into space, an  Emirati is preparing to become the latest Arab space traveler when he joins a team of astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) in September.

For months, Hazza Al-Mansoori and backup pilot Sultan Al-Neyadi have been undergoing intensive training in Russia, Germany and the US to prepare for the mission. The first Emirati to travel into space will make the historic journey on board a Soyuz-MS 15 spacecraft due to take off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 25.

During the eight-day mission, he will conduct a tour of the ISS for Arabic viewers on Earth and carry out 15 experiments for the Science in Space schools competition conducted by Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center.

The crew, who will include an American and a Russian, are allowed to take up to 1 kg of personal items with them on the mission.

“I will take my family photo and share the experience of being in space with them,” Al-Mansoori said. There will also be an image of Sheikh Zayed, the UAE’s founding father, meeting American astronauts in 1976.

“I am also going to take an Emirati flag. I am living my dream and want to give something back to my country.”

‘I will take an Emirati flag into space. I am living my dream and want to give something back to my country.’

Emirati astronaut Hazza Al-Mansoori

Al-Mansoori will join an elite space club comprising Saudi Arabia’s Prince Sultan bin Salman and Syria’s Muhammed Faris. Prince Sultan became the first Arab to travel to space as part of space shuttle Discovery’s crew in 1985. Faris was a crew member of USSR’s Soyuz spacecraft in 1987.

The Emirati astronaut is aware that history is resting on his shoulders. Speaking to the media recently during his training program in Houston, Al-Mansoori  said it is a huge personal honor to be the first Emirati chosen for space exploration.

“I’m excited about the whole mission, but especially to experience the microgravity and be living in the ISS, and conducting daily experiments and working with the amazing group on board,” he said.

Al-Mansoori and Al-Neyadi have been undergoing rigorous training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The program includes familiarization with NASA equipment on board the space station, and handling emergency situations, such as ammonia gas leaks and depressurization.

The Emiratis have been trained to fend for themselves if the return goes off course and they land in the wilderness of Russia.

Speaking of the Soyuz-MS 15 mission, Yousuf Al-Shaibani, director general of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center, said: “We strive to see the UAE Astronaut Program achieve its objective of preparing generations of Emiratis who will contribute to enhancing the country’s position in space science and research to serve the ambitious aspirations aimed at building a national knowledge-based economy.”

The September launch could prove to be the beginning of a bold new era for Arabs and space. Al-Neyadi, the backup pilot, has been promised a seat on a future mission, and the UAE and Saudi Arabia are drawing up ambitious plans for the development of the region’s space industry.