PARIS - Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, meeting with Western donors yesterday in Brussels, requested close to $5 billion in investment over the next three years toward the development of a Palestinian state.
"The journey has been long and arduous, but the end is now in sight. We are now in the homestretch to freedom," Fayyad told the annual spring donors' coordination meeting. "Now it is time for us to be the masters of our own destiny in a state of our own."
The Palestinian Authority's three-year development plan, obtained by Reuters, requires $1.467 billion this year, $1.754 billion in 2012 and $1.596 billion in 2013.
"We have distributed the plan to the donors and they have welcomed it," Palestinian Planning Minister Ali al-Jarbawi said. The plan will be presented formally to donor countries at a pledging conference in June, he added.
According to the plan, "the next three years will witness a transformation in the nature of external aid from 'life support' to real investment in the future of Palestine."
It calls for an economy led by the private sector, reducing government's recurrent expenditure while increasing development spending.
It says GDP growth is expected to reach 9 percent this year, rising to 10 percent in 2012 and 12 percent in 2013. Unemployment is projected to decline from 25 percent in 2009 to 15 percent in 2013.
But donor states that have given billions in aid to the Palestinians over the years will need no reminder that Israeli control of 60 percent of the West Bank constitutes a major barrier to the full development of its economic potential.
The development plan's inclusion of the Gaza Strip ignores that it is currently under the control of the Hamas movement and blockaded by Israel. Hamas, which is shunned as a terrorist group by the West, has pledged never to accept the Jewish state.
Ahead of the donor meeting, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton praised the progress of the PA, but stressed that "these achievements can be sustainable only if they are matched with progress in the peace talks."
Ashton also said she and Fayyad were planning to sign a duty-free, quota-free agreement giving immediate access and full liberalization for Palestinian products to the EU market, for a transitional period of 10 years, with a possible extension.
The agreement includes all agricultural products, processed agricultural products and fish and fishery products originating in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
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