Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Palestinian Stock Exchange Sells Shares in Economic Independence

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Palestinian Stock Exchange Sells Shares in Economic Independence

Article excerpt

They decided not to wait until all the conditions were in place that investors would normally look for in a stock exchange: a healthy economy and well-established companies - not to mention an independent state.

Instead, the Palestine Securities Exchange (PSE) opened for trading last week before the completion of the Middle East peace process. Its aim is to lure investment from abroad to build up the Palestinian economy, and perhaps help foster de facto political independence from Israel.

"Slovenia gained independence {from Yugoslavia} and built a stock exchange a year later," says Safwan Bataina, the PSE's general manager. "That's my model." The 1993 peace agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization set up an infrastructure for a Palestinian Authority, but the final shape of that political entity is undecided and much disputed. So Mr. Bataina is actually moving a step ahead of Slovenia. The Palestinian exchange makes no pretensions of being the next Wall Street. Instead it looks more like the home of an Internet company, conducting computerized, on-line trading without the shouting and signaling of traditional stock markets. Its Canadian-made software program is used at markets in Pakistan, Romania, and Jordan. Bataina brings Wall Street expertise to Nablus, a city on the West Bank that gets its name from the bustling 1st century Roman colony Flavia Neapolis. He worked at Smith Barney in New York after getting a masters degree in business at Columbia University there. He left a post as adviser to Jordan's prime minister to open the PSE. Targeting expatriates Priority No. 1 is bringing in capital from Palestinians who left during times of war or hardship and were successful in business in America and elsewhere. Much as the early Zionists sought to attract Jewish funds from abroad, Palestinians hope that Arab investment will wean West Bank and Gaza residents from foreign aid and the Israeli labor market. …

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