Speeches & Transcripts

Future Challenges and World Bank support for the Financial Sector in West Bank and Gaza

October 7, 2010

Shamshad Akhtar, Regional Vice President, Middle East and North Africa Region, World Bank Show Case on Palestinian Banking Sector

As Prepared for Delivery

Dear colleagues,

This event is a tribute to the dedication and leadership of Dr. Jihad Al Wazir and his team at the Palestinian Monetary Authority as well as the Palestinian private sector bankers.  Through his vision and determination, Dr. Al Wazir has managed to overcome enormous challenges to build a core financial system to serve the Palestinian people and a future state.

The viability of any state and its financial system rests on having a robust private sector led economy that can provide the jobs required by a growing workforce and the resources needed by the government to provide essential services.   Recent trends in WBG are comforting, as growth, besides being driven by aid inflows, is being supported by the resurgence of economic activity.  The PMA and the World Bank have a strong partnership that aims to nurture private sector and evolve a strong central bank and install a best practice financial regulatory and supervisory system to help strengthen banks in the West Bank and Gaza.

The PMA with its perseverance has now put in place a well functioning banking system.  The PMA operates under unique circumstances. Responding to the challenges, Governor Al Wazir has developed structures which allow the banks to operate in complex situations and that have become a model for other countries operating in challenging environments.

The PMA is developing core infrastructure including a new automated payments system that includes a real time gross settlement system.

The PMA is developing certificates of deposit that will help establish a yield curve and serve as collateral for the automated payments system.

The PMA is recognized for its public credit registry that is unique in many regards, because it shares the features of a private credit bureau and provides services that only a bureau does, such as credit scores for SME lending.

The PMA has instituted one of the strongest anti-money laundering systems.

The PMA has established a strong regulatory and supervisory system that has successfully safeguarded the banking sector from external shocks such as the recent international financial crisis as well as internal threats such as recent attempts in Gaza to open an illegal bank.

The PMA is establishing a deposit insurance system and strengthening reserve management.

The PMA is supporting a credit guarantee scheme for SME that is also well designed and unique, for providing capacity building for bank in the areas of lending and risk management.  This is another example of an innovation that is example for other countries operating in challenging environments.

The PMA has managed to build its research and economic management capacities and is able to operate in absence of domestic currency or direct control over monetary policy. 

While the PMA has addressed a number of problems, there remain attendant risks.  While the deposit base is close to 100 percent of GDP - a very high figure compared to other countries in the region – lending is considerably lower, at around 30 per cent of GDP.  However, the PMA is introducing institutional reforms that should reduce the risks for banks to lend domestically.  Indeed, credit to the private sector rose by nearly 40 percent in the West Bank and 8 percent in Gaza during the first half of 2010.   In addition to assisting the PMA in its preparations to become a modern full-fledge central bank, the World Bank is also supporting the development of other key segments of the financial sector.  Namely, the capital markets and housing finance infrastructure and strengthening financial infrastructure by promoting out-of-court settlements for debt collection, and establishing a national registry for pledges of movable property to ease the use of collateral for bank lending.