Thursday, March 25, 2010

West Bank: Expanding trade and transport in the northern West Bank

Source: United States Agency for International Development (USAID) - Mo'ayiad Raghib, the owner of the Memar cement factory in Baqa ash Sharkiya, knows first-hand the problems with movement and access in the West Bank. "My factory is 15 minutes away from Yabad, a major market for me, but since the main road leading to Yabad was closed I had to travel 45 minutes. As a result, I lost large municipal contracts because of the costs I had to charge for shipping."

Since 2005, Israeli restrictions prevented Palestinians from travelling along Route 585, the main road between the Jenin and Tulkarm governorates. The closure of the road affected the lives of more than 330,000 Palestinian residents. People had to detour through poor quality village roads, increasing the cost and length of travel.

Responding to Palestinian concerns, the Trade Facilitation Project (TFP), funded by USAID and implemented by Chemonics International, began to study the economic impact of the closure and develop a case for its removal. Through a series of field visits and interviews with local and international partners in Tulkarm, Jenin and the area villages, TFP found that every month roughly 360 commercial shipments moving between Tulkarm and Jenin were paying a total of NIS 72,000 in increased shipping costs because of the inferior road network. The closure also affected businesses along the route by cutting off direct access to markets and supplies. Five businesses that TFP surveyed lost nearly NIS 2 million in sales as a result of the closure.

TFP presented the findings to US and international stakeholders and, in August 2009, to the Israeli Civil Administration in Jenin to make a case for opening the road for Palestinians. The evaluation was well-received. During the Eid al-Adha holiday in December 2009, Route 585 was re-opened, and it has remained open ever since.

For northern West Bank traders and residents, opening their traditional access route has been a long awaited development. Today, Mo'ayiad and over 1,200 other Palestinians are using Route 585 daily, connecting families, improving trade conditions, and giving local residents hope for a better future.

TFP seeks to improve the speed, efficiency, and security of the movement of Palestinian people and goods within and from the West Bank and Gaza Strip to enhance Palestinian economic conditions.

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