Ramallah – Santiago – on 7 November 2017, Bank of Palestine inaugurated its second representative office outside Palestine in the Chilean capital, Santiago. The grand opening ceremony was attended by several Palestinian businessmen and investors from the Palestinian diaspora communities around the world, such as Farouk Shami (from the United States), owner of the world-renowned Farouk Systems Company, which carries the famous cosmetics brand CHI; businessman Malik Melhem (from the United Arab Emirates), owner of Reach Holding; in addition to several prominent businessmen of Palestinian origin and owners of big companies in Latin America, with whom the bank managed to develop strong relations in the last few years, among them José Said, Alberto Kassis, Gonzalo Said and René Abumohor. Hashim Al Shawa, Chairman and General Manager of Bank of Palestine, and Azzam Al Shawa, the Governor of the Palestinian Monetary Authority, also attended the ceremony.
Through its representative offices, Bank of Palestine managed to build bridges of communication and open new prospects for economic relations with powerful financial groups in the diaspora communities, to encourage them to invest in Palestine in the various investment, financial, production, agricultural and industrial sectors, to name a few. The bank aspires that such initiatives could develop the Palestinian economy and generate employment in order to alleviate the rate of unemployment and achieve economic and social welfare in spite of the difficult political situation in Palestine.
Hashim Al Shawa, the Chairman and General Manager of Bank of Palestine, stated that envisaging the Republic of Chile stems from two sides: the first is motivated by networking and interaction, whereby Chile is an active member in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), which translates into the prospects of vast commercial relations with Asia Pacific countries and the United States; while the second involves benefiting from the possibilities that the Palestinian Diaspora community could offer, considering it is a huge community that managed to achieve economic and social successes and firmly establish its existence as an essential part of the Chilean society, taking into consideration that 350,000 Palestinians are now living in Chile, and those will form part of a large plan to reach more than one million Palestinians living in Latin America. Al Shawa added that all these Palestinian came together to grant Bank of Palestine a golden opportunity to promote and improve the situation of the Palestinian economy through the exchange of information and expertise, funding infrastructure and financial and economic system, attracting capital, effecting positive change on the Palestinian economy and pumping new investments.
The Palestinian community in Chile expressed its interest in working with Bank of Palestine and considered such cooperation its only window to investment opportunities in the homeland, identify the potentials of the Palestinian economy and obtain the necessary information about investment opportunities. At the same time, the community pointed out that they have completed the networking stage and establishing various types of economic relations between Palestine and Chile. Those who attended the ceremony said that the activities implemented by Bank of Palestine brought back good memories of Palestine, its climate, roots and culture.
Al Shawa added that the bank managed to weave strong ties with various leaders in the Palestinian private sector in Chile, and it is about to sign a correspondent bank agreement with the largest bank in Chile, whose assets reach $52 billion and whose banking companies stretch across Latin America and the United States. The membership of Bank of Palestine as a representative office in the Chilean Banks Association is of utter importance because it is a network of large and effective banks, distinguished by modern banking systems with a long experience in financial commerce and large projects in Chile and at the level of the Latin continent. In return, Bank of Palestine will transfer its knowledge in the fields of financial inclusion and electronic banking. Al Shawa also added that all these relationships will enable the bank to diversify the funding instruments available in this market, in partnership with Chilean banks, through subordinated and syndicated loans or investment funds that target investment in the Palestine stock market shares and large economic projects in the field of infrastructure in Palestine and Chile, because the latter is coming on a major economic revitalization in the next few years as it is considered one of the most politically stable countries with huge economic prospects.
Al Shawa revealed that Palestinian businessmen in the Diaspora are extremely interested in the Palestinian market and are seriously considering to invest in Palestine. Some of these Palestinians have already penetrated the Palestinian market by investing in shares, while others still need more information and incentives, and many of them are seriously considering entry into the Palestinian market but are unable to envision to size of this entry.
Al Shawa pointed out that a few years back, the bank invested a great deal of efforts to develop its relation with the Diaspora community in Chile and other Diaspora communities around the world. These efforts were conducted through several banking programs that were especially designed for Palestinians in the Diaspora, and by contributing to improving stereotypes about Palestine. Al Shawa hopes that the coming days and years will witness the return of many capitalist to invest in and for Palestine.
The success story of Bank of Palestine turned many heads during the conventions and meetings of the inauguration. After all, the bank is a Palestinian company that was established in 1960 and pursued its operations under extremely critical circumstances. Over the year, it managed to overcome many obstacles and achieve many successes to attain financial inclusion and develop the electronic payments system, credit cards, and other services in Palestine. The success story of Bank of Palestine is a unique experience that encouraged many to emulate and benefit from.
From another angle, Al Shawa pointed out that the bank’s representative offices will form a network of economic relations between Latin America and the Arabian Gulf from one side, and with Palestine from another. The representative office, according to Al Shawa, will play a role in providing information about the investment environment in Palestine and its feasibility. Furthermore, the representative offices in the Gulf and Latin America will play an international role in global economic relations if they manage to promote the size of commercial exchange between the two regions, which seem very limited at the moment because they only reached 2.5%.
On the sidelines of the inauguration ceremony of the representative office in Santiago, the bank sponsored the Taqalid Conference, which is the first conference held by the Palestinian community in Latin America, and was attended by more than 2,000 Palestinians coming from several counties in Latin America. The events that took place during the preparations for the ceremony included cultural, social, artistic and economic meetings and activities that were preceded by visits to the Central Bank of Chile, a gala dinner for Palestinian businessmen and women from Guatemala, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Chile and El Salvador, in addition to workshops implemented by Bank of Palestine’s Consultant for Art and Culture, George Aama, about the history of Bethlehem and Bethlehemites in the Diaspora.
It is important to mention that last April 2016, Bank of Palestine opened its first representative office at the Global Financial Center in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. The opening ceremony was attended by many Palestinian and Arab businessmen in the Gulf region.