Gazans delight in locally produced sweets

A shop employee holds up jars of the Gazan-produced ‘Natalia’. (AFP)
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Updated 14 February 2020

Gazans delight in locally produced sweets

GAZA CITY: Off a bumpy dirt road in Gaza city, a group of children stood outside a half-open factory door, desperate to get their hands on what was being made inside.

“We want chocolate!” they shouted at a worker as he left the Al-Arees factory, which despite daunting obstacles churns out treats ranging from chocolate-covered biscuits to a Gazan version of a world famous spread, dubbed here ‘Natalia’.

Buckling in the face of candy-crazed kids, the man popped behind the door and returned with enough free chocolate to rot their growing teeth.

Al-Arees’s products are Gazan but their components are not, as few of the basic raw ingredients are produced in the impoverished Mediterranean coastal strip.

The factory relies on chocolate from as far afield as Argentina, sugar from African countries and dried eggs from the Netherlands, with other essentials imported from Turkey and Israel.

Israel controls all goods that enter Gaza, imposing a blockade that tightened after the tiny enclave was seized by the Islamist group Hamas in 2007.

Getting them into Gaza requires patience and money.

“From Ashdod we pay for workers and trucks that take these goods to the Kerem Shalom border crossing (between Gaza and Israel),” said Wael Ai, head of Al-Arees.

“Then you take them out of the truck for checks, then onto another truck from Gaza and after about 500 meters you have another checkpoint for Hamas,” he added.

“I pay customs twice,” he told AFP, meaning once in Ashdod where Israel collects fees on behalf of the official Palestinian government based in the West Bank and then in Gaza to Hamas.

Due to Gaza’s electricity shortages, Ai has installed three fuel-guzzling generators. “If you want anything done in Gaza you have to do it yourself,” he said.

Local factories also make Crimpos, a large marshmallow coated in a thick layer of chocolate.

Despite ongoing tensions, Israel and Hamas have reached a series of agreements over the past year that have slightly eased tensions.

That fragile accord led to an event in December which, for a Gazan producer, could fairly be described as momentous: for the first time in years Gaza exported sweet goods.

Eight tons of Crimpos were cleared for export to Bahrain, crossing through Israel and the West Bank to Jordan, and onward to the Gulf Arab state.

After increased Gaza rocket
fire following Trump’s peace proposal, Israel again tightened the export rules and canceled 500 permits for Gazans to work in Israel.

But Wadiya remains optimistic.

“If you can succeed in Gaza, you can succeed anywhere.”


India to invest $1.46 trillion to lift virus-hit economy

Updated 15 August 2020

India to invest $1.46 trillion to lift virus-hit economy

  • Modi announced a national digital heath plan under which every Indian will get an identity card containing all health-related information
  • Modi said the government has identified 7,000 infrastructure projects to offset the economic impact of the pandemic
NEW DELHI: India’s prime minister said Saturday his country has done well in containing the coronavirus pandemic and announced $1.46 trillion infrastructure projects to boost the sagging economy.
The key lesson India learnt from the pandemic is to become self-reliant in manufacturing and developing itself as a key supply chain destination for international companies, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.
“The coronavirus epidemic is a big crisis, but it can’t stall India’s economic progress,’’ Modi said in a speech from New Delhi’s 17th century Mughal-era Red Fort to mark 74 years of the country’s independence from British rule. He wore an orange and white turban with a long scarf around his neck.
He also said that three vaccines are in different phases of testing in India and it will start mass production as soon as it got a green light from scientists. “Detailed plans are in place for large-scale production of corona vaccine and making it available to every Indian,” he said.
India’s coronavirus death toll overtook Britain’s this week to become the fourth-highest in the world as the country reported over 2.5 million confirmed cases, just behind the US and Brazil.
Modi also announced a national digital heath plan under which every Indian will get an identity card containing all health-related information.
The celebrations were curtailed on Saturday because of the pandemic, with invitations going only to 4,000 guests instead of normal 20,000, media reports said.
The International Monetary Fund projected a contraction of 4.5 percent for the Indian economy in 2020, a “historic low,” but said the country is expected to bounce back in 2021.
Modi said the government has identified 7,000 infrastructure projects to offset the economic impact of the pandemic.
“Infrastructure will not be created in silos anymore. All infrastructure has to be comprehensive, integrated and linked to each other. Multi-modal connectivity infrastructure is the way forward,” he said.
He said that India saw a record 18 percent jump in foreign direct investment in the past year, a signal that the international companies are looking at the country.
Modi didn’t refer to China directly, but India is trying to capitalize on its rival’s rising production costs and deteriorating ties with the United States and European nations to become a replacement home for large multinationals.
Referring to border tensions with China in the Ladakh area, he said Indian forces had given a befitting response in the mountainous region where thousands of soldiers from the two countries remain in a tense standoff since May. India said 20 of its troops died in hand combat with Chinese troops on June 15.
“Whether it’s terrorism or expansionism, India is fighting the challenges bravely,” Modi said in apparent references to threats from neighboring Pakistan and China.