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PA seeks to implement new mechanism to manage Arab, international funds

March 27, 2017 6:33 P.M. (Updated: April 8, 2017 8:47 P.M.)
AMMAN (Ma’an) -- Palestinian National Economy Minister Abir Odeh addressed the Arab League’s Economic and Social Council on Sunday, urging Arab and international institutions to provide financial support for Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem, at a ministerial meeting held in preparation for the upcoming annual Arab League Summit in Amman on Wednesday, when economic and political issues in the region are expected to be on the top of the agenda, as is the Palestinian cause.

Mauritanian Finance Minister Mokhtar Ould Ajay also called on Arab and international financial institutions to direct their investments towards the Palestinian economy though the Al-Aqsa Fund at the meeting, Kuwait News Agency reported, a recommendation that came after the Palestinian prime minister and president instructed officials to take steps to transfer the management of the multi-million dollar fund to the Palestinian government, rather than it being run directly by international donors and charities.

Nasser Qatami, who was recently appointed by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah as his adviser for Arab and Islamic fund affairs, told Ma'an on Thursday that a new committee would be formed to manage the fund, which was set up at the Arab Summit in 2000 in Cairo as a mechanism to channel aid to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

The Arab and Islamic Funds Committee would take over the Al-Aqsa Fund’s management, which has been administered primarily by the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) since its inception, as well as by the International Islamic Charity Organization (IICO), and other international organizations such as the United Nations.

The new entity will be chaired by Hamdallah -- who also serves as Interior Minister as well as the president of Al-Najah National University in Nablus.

A board of directors would be appointed to run the committee, and its members -- who will be known as “governors” -- would act as representatives of Palestine at Arab and Islamic funds that currently provide support to the Al-Quds Fund: the Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Economic Development, the Saudi Fund for Development, the Arab Monetary Fund, the Islamic Development Bank, and the Arab Investment and Export Credit Guarantee Corporation.

According to Qatami, the Al-Aqsa Fund receives between $50 and 70 million annually from the five funds, with each allocating 10 percent of their annual profits to the Al-Aqsa Fund.

In the past, Qatami said that project proposals were submitted to the Al-Aqsa Fund directly without intervention of the Palestinian government.

According to Qatami, the PA aims to take over managing funding proposals to ensure that they are in line with "the political agenda set by the government from now until 2022."

“We plan to unify the management of the fund, by choosing projects and identifying priorities with interests of all sectors in mind, and by setting transparent policies for any institution that would like to contribute to the fund,” Qatami said.

It remained unclear as of Monday if the Palestinian Authority was working in cooperation with IDB and the other entities currently responsible the fund’s administration to make such a move.

As of 2015, the value of the Al-Aqsa Fund, under the management of IDB, reportedly reached $1.27 billion since it was created in 2000, with $480 million of the funds having been allocated for loans to support the Palestinian Authority.

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