f_0018907_16168 - Kenneth E. Barden is an investment...

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Oda is a farmer, raising a variety of leafy vegetables in a small greenhouse in the northern part of the West Bank outside of Jenin, some 25 kilometers from the border with Israel. The land here is rocky and hilly and a great amount of effort is required to turn this land to productive use. Two years ago, Oda needed money to obtain some plastic housing to protect his vegetables from the elements. Unfortunately, the $5,000 he needed was not an amount that commercial banks were particularly interest- ed in servicing, nor did Oda possess the col- lateral typically required in conventional loan arrangements. Oda, a devout Muslim, is in his mid-40s and still full of energy. But, as the father of a young family, he feared being encumbered by a debt he could not readily repay. Oda found his answer in a new model of financing, one that blends micro-loans with respect for Islamic law, or shariah . In stepped Reef Finance, just one of a number of nascent institutions that may play a major role in bringing a level of pros- perity, even peace, to the rural communities of the West Bank. Years of conflict and containment have taken a toll on the Palestinian economy. But, since the end of the Second Intifada in late 2004, the West Bank has experienced a measure of economic growth, assisted in part by donor aid programs and by the over nine million members of the Palestinian diaspora who have sent their hard-earned money in remittances to aid relatives back home or fund fledgling business activities. Evidence of this economic growth can be seen in the cars, designer clothing, and other material goods purchased by many young Palestinians. New construction of apartments and hotels are some of the most visible signs of investment. A new luxury Mövenpick hotel recently opened in Ramal- lah, offering gym and spa services to the local professional class. In downtown He- bron, a center of industry in the West Bank, the storefronts offering Rolex, Versace, and other name brands resemble the shopping centers of a European capital. Yet despite this growth, wealth has not been evenly dispersed across the West Bank. Much of the new money is concentrated in the urban centers. According to a report is- sued in February 2010, the International Committee of the Red Cross estimates that 50 percent of the West Bank population lives in poverty. In rural areas, many fami- lies still live a Bedouin lifestyle, preferring tents or improvised housing shelters, while their livestock occupy sturdier dwellings built under previous relief programs. Kenneth E. Barden is an investment banking and legal advisor based in the West Bank. He has worked in development finance and building legal frameworks in Kosovo, Palau, Indonesia, Vietnam, Russia, Romania, Mongolia, and other developing regions. © 2010 World Policy Institute
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This note was uploaded on 02/01/2012 for the course POLS 494 taught by Professor Garymoncrief during the Fall '11 term at Boise State.

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f_0018907_16168 - Kenneth E. Barden is an investment...

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