memri

November 26, 2017
Clip No.
6397

Al-Jazeera TV Report on Boom in Gaza Consumer Enterprises

Al-Jazeera took a look at the booming consumer economy of Gaza in a recent episode of its "Economy and the People" show. Footage from shopping malls, restaurants, and tourist resorts shows that business is thriving. According to the investors and businessmen interviewed, this type of project is attractive because of the promise of quick profits and the low risks involved, but they cited the closure of the border crossings as a major factor impeding development and pinned their hopes on Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, which would lead to an amelioration of the circumstances in Gaza and to rising profits. The report aired on November 26, 2017.

 

Presenter: In recent years, the Gaza Strip has witnessed a great hike in consumer projects, such as shopping centers, hotels, restaurants, beauty salons, and retail stores. Why do investors and businessmen opt for this type of consumer project, and avoid production projects in industry and agriculture?

 

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Welcome to another episode of our show “Economy and the People”, coming to you from the Gaza Strip. We will examine the rise in consumer projects, the reasons why investors prefer this type of project, and how this impacts the economy of the Gaza Strip in general.

 

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There are no official statistics regarding the number of new consumer projects founded in Gaza in recent years, but around ten shopping centers, forty restaurants, and nine resorts have opened. There are many investments in beauty salons, toy stores, and clothing shops. In addition, there are 24 hotels in the Gaza Strip.

 

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Building shopping centers is popular among investors, because such projects are considered to yield fast profits at a small risk. Is this the solution for the Gaza Strip?

Mahmoud Haniya, Shopping Center Owner: As investors in the Gaza Strip, we are always investing in consumer enterprises. Our market research has shown that the Gaza strip is in need of this kind of project. We conducted the necessary economic feasibility studies, which have shown that this project will be successful, Allah willing. But it took four years to build this project. During these four years, there were some unpredictable circumstances. When we opened the center, in light of the surprises we had encountered, and since we tried to maintain the quality of the products we offer the customers, the project incurred losses, contrary to our expectations and our feasibility studies. We continue to provide the same level of quality and service, and we expect that following the [Fatah-Hamas] reconciliation, the situation in Gaza will improve, and the project will yield profits, in line with our feasibility study.

 

[...]

 

Mona Al-Ghlayani, Hotel and Restaurant Owner: I chose to invest in tourism and in consumer projects, because these are two of the most successful sectors in the Gaza Strip. After many years in the Gaza Strip, I have become convinced that this is the future. I am convinced that in the event of a [Fatah-Hamas] reconciliation, and the circumstances in the Gaza Strip improve, tourism will become one of the most important sectors in the Gaza Strip.

 

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Salah Abu Hasira, Head of the Restaurant and Hotel Sector in Gaza: Today, Gaza relies heavily on tourism. It has many archaeological sites, hotels, restaurants, and theme parks. Investments in these projects are very high, and they currently employ 6,000 people, despite the economic crisis stemming from the closure of the border crossings, and the circumstances in the Gaza Strip. Despite this, it remains a vital sector, which provides 6,000 jobs. If there is prosperity, following Palestinian reconciliation and the opening of the border crossings, the number of people employed in this sector will exceed 12,000. In Gaza, there are some 430 business licenses in this sector. 108 tourist projects are registered with our authority. They are divided into various sectors- hotels, restaurants, coffee shops, theme parks, zoos, and other tourist services. So this is a very large sector, and it is very sensitive to the political circumstances. It flourishes very quickly when there is political stability. We believe that the government should pay a lot of attention to this sector, as should the international institutions.

Presenter: The investors who focus on consumer projects have their reasons. Naturally, the quick profits and the low risks are the main reason.

 

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Motaz Abdo, Restaurant Owner: When we opened the restaurant in 1994, it was about seventy square meters. As its popularity grew, we had to expand to 150 square meters. This development did not happen without a reason. It’s due to the demand. The border crossings are closed and people cannot go out on vacation, so they have to turn to domestic tourism within the Gaza Strip. In Gaza, there is no alternative to restaurants. So we had to expand our restaurant and develop our services, in order to provide a tourist experience of the highest level.

 

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Hussein Zein Al-Din, Toy Store Owner: My name is Hussein Zein Al-Din, and I’m the owner of the Toy Box store. I studied in Egypt and graduated in 2012 as a civil engineer. I worked as an engineer, but it did not go well. Most of the projects were on hold. There are no projects, no infrastructure, and no raw materials coming in. It was very difficult. So I turned to trade. We opened this place, where we sell toys and gifts, believing that this could be a successful investment, with a gradually growing income. Our approach was that we should start big. People say that under the current circumstances and the siege, it’s very difficult. But we have shattered this barrier. We make a change for the people. People say that it’s tough, but we say that in the beginning, everything is tough, but that it all works out in the end. We cater to all social classes here. We have products for the poor, the middle class, and the rich.

 

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As investors, we hope that our number one problem will be resolved- the border crossings problem, which increases the trade exchange rates. The second problem that must be resolved is the electricity problem. We need electricity for more hours to reduce our operational costs. Third, we call upon the Ministry of Economy to support us, so that we can bring prosperity to the Gaza economy.

 

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Presenter: How do the people of Gaza view the great increase in consumer projects?

 

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Female Shopper: Despite the difficult circumstances, Gaza has great prospects. But work should be done on the political level as well. It is the politicians who need to lift the siege, and remove all the obstacles to a real and meaningful economy.

 

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