FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

World Bank Policies Fail Palestinians

by ALAA TARTIR AND JEREMY WILDEMAN

The Middle East featured prominently on the agenda of last month’s annual meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Tokyo. But how relevant are these agencies’ policy prescriptions in the context of conflict? In the case of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) they are not only inappropriate but also harmful. And yet both institutions have relentlessly dished up these prescriptions for the past two decades. To understand why they are so harmful, it is useful to deconstruct the policy recommendations in the World Bank’s latest growth report for the OPT.

The Bank’s growth report provides a breakdown of the current state of the Palestinian economy, which it describes as fragile and dependent on foreign aid. The report’s frank conclusions are largely unsurprising: aid-based growth is unsustainable, especially because aid levels are expected to decline over time. The surprising part of the report lies not in the Bank’s negative prognosis of the Palestinian economy, but rather in its recommendations. It calls for the Palestinians to emulate the Asian tigers by ‘adopting an outward orientation and integrating into world supply chains.’

Just how a people that exercises no control over its own land, borders and natural resources can carry out such export-based growth is not explained. The report further recommends that the Palestinian Authority ‘should strive to build a business environment that is among the best in the world and not merely on par with its neighbors.’ This is utterly impossible under prolonged occupation, where Palestinian civil and property rights are ignored by an Israeli state that is simultaneously engaged in the mass-expropriation of Palestinian land. The business climate is so bad that one report suggested certain Palestinian businesspersons even prefer to invest in Israel.

The report also repeats a dangerous belief long propagated by the World Bank: That the Palestinian economy can benefit from deeper integration with the Israeli economy. Actual experience indicates otherwise. The Palestinian economy has been de-developed since 1967, as Sara Roy’s work has shown, and Palestinian industry has been deliberately sabotaged in favor of Israeli industry, as Shir Hever documents.

Classic World Bank economic assumptions that recommend ‘free trade agreements between a future Palestinian state, Israel and neighboring countries’ have never been embraced by Israel. Palestinians cannot exploit ‘competitive advantages’ because Israel deliberately prevents them. Instead, integration has been one-sided, allowing Israel to exploit a captive Palestinian market cut off from the outside world.

It is vital to understand the extent to which much of the World Bank’s policy advice is destined for failure because it exercises enormous influence on foreign aid to the OPT and its recommendations form the basis on which international donors design their aid programs. In fact, it designed the aid regime adopted by the international community during the Oslo Peace Process of the early 1990s. Since that time, the Bank has prescribed policy recommendations for donors that do not take into account the human reality of Palestinians struggling to survive for decades under a violent military occupation and in colonial conditions.

Nor have the international community and those many prominent international bodies engaged in the ‘peace process,’ such as the World Bank, held Israel to account for its actions. Indeed, the Bank sanitizes the language it uses when criticizing the occupation, employing euphemisms that downplay the effects of occupation while focusing on the Palestinians when giving reasons why Bank recommendations have failed.

As they met with the world’s delegations in Tokyo, did the World Bank and IMF question their policies and the need to actually reflect the ‘facts on the ground’? Until and unless they do, they will waste valuable time and resources and distract Palestinians from what should be their primary goal: Ending the military occupation as a first step toward sovereignty, freedom, and self-determination.

Until Palestinian rights are secured, it is meaningless to develop aid programs that do not take into account the full impact of the occupation and the expropriation of Palestinian land. The Bank’s growth report is useful only in revealing that the Palestinian economy is in a critical state of disrepair. Its inability to provide policy recommendations that properly account for the effects of occupation renders its advice irrelevant.

It is time to look for alternative models of aid, ones that do not simply seek new ways for the Palestinians to cope with life under occupation, but rather challenge the status quo while enabling Palestinians to survive, by, for example, promoting investment in smallholder agriculture. This alone can lead to real economic growth and sustainable development.

Alaa Tartir, Program Director of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network, is the author of The role of international aid in development: the case of Palestine 1994-2008 (Lambert 2011) and Jeremy Wildeman, an Al-Shabaka Guest Author, co-founded the Nablus-based charity Project Hope.

Weekend Edition
July 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Obama Said Hillary will Continue His Legacy and Indeed She Will!
Jeffrey St. Clair
She Stoops to Conquer: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Rob Urie
Long Live the Queen of Chaos
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Evolution of Capitalism, Escalation of Imperialism
Margot Kidder
My Fellow Americans: We Are Fools
Phillip Kim et al.
Open Letter to Bernie Sanders from Former Campaign Staffers
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Convention Con
Lewis Evans
Executing Children Won’t Save the Tiger or the Rhino
Vijay Prashad
The Iraq War: a Story of Deceit
Chris Odinet
It Wasn’t Just the Baton Rouge Police Who Killed Alton Sterling
Brian Cloughley
Could Trump be Good for Peace?
Patrick Timmons
Racism, Freedom of Expression and the Prohibition of Guns at Universities in Texas
Gary Leupp
The Coming Crisis in U.S.-Turkey Relations
Pepe Escobar
Is War Inevitable in the South China Sea?
Norman Pollack
Clinton Incorruptible: An Ideological Contrivance
Robert Fantina
The Time for Third Parties is Now!
Andre Vltchek
Like Trump, Hitler Also Liked His “Small People”
Serge Halimi
Provoking Russia
David Rovics
The Republicans and Democrats Have Now Switched Places
Andrew Stewart
Countering The Nader Baiter Mythology
Rev. William Alberts
“Law and Order:” Code words for White Lives Matter Most
Ron Jacobs
Something Besides Politics for Summer’s End
David Swanson
It’s Not the Economy, Stupid
Erwan Castel
A Faith that Lifts Barricades: The Ukraine Government Bows and the Ultra-Nationalists are Furious
Steve Horn
Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?
Robert Fisk
How to Understand the Beheading of a French Priest
Colin Todhunter
Sugar-Coated Lies: How The Food Lobby Destroys Health In The EU
Franklin Lamb
“Don’t Cry For Us Syria … The Truth is We Shall Never Leave You!”
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
The Artistic Representation of War and Peace, Politics and the Global Crisis
Frederick B. Hudson
Well Fed, Bill?
Harvey Wasserman
NY Times Pushes Nukes While Claiming Renewables Fail to Fight Climate Change
Elliot Sperber
Pseudo-Democracy, Reparations, and Actual Democracy
Uri Avnery
The Orange Man: Trump and the Middle East
Marjorie Cohn
The Content of Trump’s Character
Missy Comley Beattie
Pick Your Poison
Kathleen Wallace
Feel the About Turn
Joseph Grosso
Serving The Grid: Urban Planning in New York
John Repp
Real Cooperation with Nations Is the Best Survival Tactic
Binoy Kampmark
The Scourge of Youth Detention: The Northern Territory, Torture, and Australia’s Detention Disease
Kim Nicolini
Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red In It
Cesar Chelala
Gang Violence Rages Across Central America
Tom H. Hastings
Africa/America
Robert Koehler
Slavery, War and Presidential Politics
Charles R. Larson
Review: B. George’s “The Death of Rex Ndongo”
July 28, 2016
Paul Street
Politician Speak at the DNC
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail