Thursday, April 14, 2005

Nablus Stock Exchange Optimistic

Who would have thought there was a stock exchange in Nablus, in the West Bank. The Washington Times reports that things there are picking up. Link.
NABLUS, West Bank -- The economy is in a shambles, lawlessness reigns and the public is ambivalent about peace, but the mood on the Palestine Securities Exchange couldn't be more euphoric.
Based in Nablus, a city battered by the Israeli army where gunfire from militants still echoes throughout the downtown, the fledgling stock exchange doubled in the first quarter of the year on news of the emerging truce with Israel. (...)

"The first reason is that the companies are doing well. The second reason is that political stability is better," Mr. Yassin said.
The tiny market -- all of 26 companies with a market value of just $2.3 billion -- has attracted money from companies in the Middle East, wealthy Palestinians outside of Israeli-controlled territories and local housewives, according to traders. During the first three months of this year, trading volume was five times higher than for all of 2002. (...)

"The clashes between the Palestinians and the Israelis have dropped compared to what it used to be. Many people think the blackest days are past," Mr. Salameh said.
The gains are being driven by two blue chips: Palestine Development & Investment Ltd., a local holding company, and its phone monopoly subsidiary, Palestine Telecommunications Ltd. (PalTel). (...)

To be sure, with almost half of Palestinians living below the poverty line and commerce still choked by Israeli military roadblocks, Mr. Yassin said the success of the PSE-listed companies isn't an indication that the average Palestinian is prospering as well.
"We haven't reached the point where we reflect the whole economy," he said.

The Palestinian economy was devastated by the Intifada, as employment and living standards dropped sharply. It is encouraging to see at least part of the economy improving, hopefully in a way that many Palestinians will feel. Until the Palestinians internalize the knowledge that their lives are harsh and poor when terrorism thrives, but improve when relations with Israel improve, there will be no peace. There can only be true peace when both sides want it.


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