By Lucia Sconosciuto
Small businesses in West Bank and Gaza will benefit from the roll-out of the EBRD Advice for Small Businesses Programme (ASB), which the Bank is launching together with the European Union (EU) today. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) account for 95 per cent of all private sector activities in the Palestinian territories. The programme aims to address the needs of the SMEs and foster their development via direct support provided by seasoned professionals.
The ASB programme, which is supported by the EU, links companies with local and international consultants working on identified challenges such as strategy, marketing, operations, quality management, energy efficiency, financial management and others. The programme also aims at improving advisory services in the local market and ultimately at increasing SMEs’ chances to access the finance they need to grow.
The EBRD anticipates the participation of local companies from a wide spectrum of sectors, such as manufacturing, agribusiness, infrastructure and many more. The programme will help foster innovation, competitiveness and create jobs. The EBRD will also encourage renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, creating greener businesses and cities in the region.
This latest EBRD programme was launched during an event in Ramallah today in the presence of EBRD Managing Director for the Southern and eastern Mediterranean, Janet Heckman; the EBRD Director, Regional Head of the Eastern Mediterranean Region, Dr. Heike Harmgart; and the Director General for Enlargement at the European Commission, Christian Danielsson; alongside Her Excellency Abeer Odeh, Palestinian Minister of National Economy and His Excellency Shukri Bsharah, Minister of Finance.
The EBRD is a multilateral bank that focuses on private sector development. Through its financial investment, business services and involvement in policy reform, the Bank works to advance the transition to open, market economies, whilst fostering sustainable and inclusive growth in three continents, from Morocco to Mongolia, from Estonia to Egypt.
In 2017, the EBRD Board of Governors approved the engagement of the Bank in the West Bank and Gaza. To date, two projects have been signed which include an SME credit line to Cairo Amman Bank Palestine for €4.1 million and a €2.0 million loan to Medlabs Consultancy Group to expand its operations in the West Bank by opening 10 branches, offering better medical services to the local population.
History shows that decisions made by policy makers have long-lasting effects. For example, when automobiles first arrived in cities, policymakers in different countries took different approaches to the issue of mixing of vehicles and pedestrians. In the United States, policymakers invented the concept of “jaywalking” and introduced stringent laws to separate vehicles and pedestrians, in order to “protect pedestrian safety”. The UK, on the other hand, took a more relaxed approach, introducing no such laws.
At the other extreme, policymakers in The Netherlands have taken the view that shared spaces—where streets are designed specifically to allow interaction between vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists—improve safety for all, as well as the liveability of cities more generally. These decisions have had long-lasting impacts on how cities in these countries look and feel today.
The way we think think about the future for autonomous vehicles seems divorced from the wider issues of city transport strategy and economic and social sustainability. It is time to put this right. Mayors, supported by their officials and planners, should start leading a debate now about how self-driving vehicles can best serve the needs of residents and visitors, and help deliver wider goals for their cities. They must develop the policies needed to deliver these benefits—well before self-driving vehicles arrive on the streets.