IMF expects global financial turnout at Palestinian conference in Bahrain

Palestinian protesters in Gaza last month. A conference on the Palestinian economy will take place in Bahrain later in June. (AFP/File photo)
Updated 23 June 2019

IMF expects global financial turnout at Palestinian conference in Bahrain

  • Fund says it and other institutions going to US-led meeting in Bahrain
  • Global lenders and development banks have long played a stabilising role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

JERUSALEM: Global financial institutions will attend a US-led conference on the Palestinian economy this month that the Trump administration has cast as an overture to its Middle East peace plan, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Wednesday.
The efficacy of the June 25-26 meeting in Bahrain has been in doubt since Palestinian leaders and businesspeople decided to shun it over Washington's perceived pro-Israel bias and inattention to their political demands.
Israel's new election, an upsurge in cross-border fighting and the Palestinians' resentment at US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital add to the complicated backdrop.
However, the IMF, which has been operating in the West Bank and Gaza since 1995, confirmed it and other global financial bodies would be present in Bahrain's capital Manama.
"The IMF has been invited to the meeting and expects to attend, along with other international financial institutions," a representative said, without naming the other bodies.
The IMF and other lenders and development banks have long played a stabilising role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, providing loans, credit guarantees, and policy advice to the Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA).
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) confirmed it would have "someone" representing it. The World Bank did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner this week concluded a trip to the Middle East and Europe aimed partly at drumming up support for the "Peace for Prosperity" conference intended to unveil the economic part of Trump's long-heralded peace plan.
But Palestinian and Arab officials suspect the event may be a prelude to a US push to jettison the "two-state" solution - a long-standing, international formula for an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.
The twin state blueprint has been the basis for decades of lending and technical support from global financial institutions, aimed at building the capacity of Palestinian government ministries and the private sector.
Though Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates plan to attend the Bahrain conference, they have assured the Palestinians they would not endorse a US plan that fails to meet their main demands.
Deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely said in a weekend radio interview "Israelis" would be there, but it was unclear if that was officials or business delegates.
Asked if she believed the event should be postponed given Palestinians' boycott, Hotovely told Tel Aviv station 102 FM: "No. There is no reason to ... Apart from them, everyone's okay. Everyone's in favour."


Bank jobs go as HSBC and Emirates NBD reduce costs

Updated 2 min 36 sec ago

Bank jobs go as HSBC and Emirates NBD reduce costs

  • Others have also reduced headcount amid economic downturn and property market weakness

DUBAI: HSBC Holdings has laid off about 40 bankers in the UAE and Emirates NBD is cutting around 100 jobs, as banks in the Arab world’s second-biggest economy reduce costs.

The cuts come amid weak economic growth, especially in Dubai, which is suffering from a property downturn.

HSBC’s redundancies came after the London-based bank reported a sharp fall in earnings and warned of a costly restructuring, as interim CEO Noel Quinn seeks to tackle its problems head-on.

HSBC has about 3,000 staff in the UAE, part of a nearly 10,000-strong workforce in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey.

The cuts at Dubai’s largest lender Emirates NBD came in consumer sales and liabilities, one source said, while a second played down the significance of the move.

HSBC and Emirates NBD declined to comment.

“The cuts are part of cost cutting and rationalizing to drive efficiencies in a challenging market,” the second source said.

Other banks have also reduced staff this year. UAE central bank data shows local banks laid off 446 people in the 12 months until the end of September. Foreign banks added staff in the same period.

Staff at local banks account for over 80 percent of the 35,518 banking employees in the country.

The merger between Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Union Commercial Bank and Al Hilal Bank saw hundreds of redundancies.

Commercial Bank International (CBI) said it would offer voluntary retirement to employees in September, which sources said saw over 100 departures. Standard Chartered, too, cut over 100 jobs in the UAE in September.

Rating agency Fitch warned in September a weakening property market would put more pressure on the UAE’s banking sector.