Looking to the land

Looking to the land

The appeal of property becomes clear by looking out the windows of the stately 10th-floor office of Kareem Abdul Hadi, a manager in Palestine Development and Investment Inc., or PADICO, the biggest privately-owned enterprise in the Palestinian territories and a holding company for everything from swish eateries and luxury hotels to real estate and construction.

Cement highrises surge from the ground in the middle of verdant patches of nothing – bald spots, Abdul Hadi dubs them – rendered largely out of bounds to Palestinian administration and construction as per the 1994 Oslo agreements setting out different zones of control in the West Bank.

The wall built by Israel winds across the landscape – part of a barrier Israel says ensures its security against suicide bombers but the international court of justice says is illegal and Palestinians decry as a land grab. While Israels controls hamstring commerce, they are a boon to the property market.

Land in Palestine is one of the only safe investments, both because the Oslo agreements made it more scarce and because it has historically never gone down in value, Abdul Hadi said.

The same doesnt apply for real estate, and while value hasnt dropped, some housing projects are sitting empty, and people havent bought them up yet.

Abdul Hadis firm is investing in a members-only executive club and spa with views of the sweeping Mediterranean littoral below, and importing a luxury restaurant from Jordan, but prospects for undertakings that would create a substantial number of jobs and spur growth have dimmed.

Sectors like agriculture, manufacturing, and construction actually contracted in the first quarter of this year, according to preliminary figures from the World Bank.

The problem is an unfriendly investment environment, caused by the Israeli occupations wall and restricted access. It makes investors unsure about putting money into Palestine, said Mohammed Shtayyeh, a minister in charge of the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction.

Around two-thirds of the West Bank is policed and administered exclusively by Israel, and the Palestinian-run cantons float precariously in an interstice of Israeli settlements, military bases and roads.

But Shtayyeh admits his government also deserves blame.

The PA is not the owner of the means of production, but it should have encouraged more interest by the private sector and foreign direct investment in developing the productive base here, he said.

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