by Osama Radi, Emad Drimly
GAZA, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) -- The trading screens to follow the movement of stocks in the Palestine Exchange (PEX) have become a refuge for Gaza investors who sit in front of these screens to escape from the restrictions of the Israeli blockade imposed on the strip.
Ahmad el-Shawa, a businessman from Gaza, is one of those investors, who once had been active in importing goods to Gaza before Israel imposed a tight blockade on the Gaza Strip right after Hamas movement violently seized control of the strip in 2007.
Since 2007, Israel has been tightly restricting the shipments of goods into the coastal enclave. El-Shawa told Xinhua that he then turned to stocks market, an investment with his remaining capital without restrictions.
"Now I can make my living without having any external restrictions," said el-Shawa, adding "Palestine Exchange stocks market has become a good example for me and many other investors who seek economic activities away from the blockade."
In around ten years of Israeli blockade, rates of unemployment and poverty in Gaza have reached its peaks, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
Aamer al-Khatib, a university teacher from Gaza, told Xinhua he has been investing in stocks for ten years, adding "I managed to earn financial profits without big risks."
Besides his happiness of making profit, he said "This would boost our economy and various economic and industrial establishments."
In the Gaza Strip, there are eight active stocks investment companies to provide online services for Palestinian and foreign investors, who trade with the stocks listed in the Palestine Exchange.
Suleiman al-Rodwan, deputy director of al-Wasata Company for Stocks in Gaza, told Xinhua that the Palestine Exchange is considered as one of the most stable stock exchange.
He said that the Israeli blockade has deprived dozens of merchants and businessmen from importing good or developing their economic activities, adding "therefore, they began to invest their capitals in the Palestine Exchange."
Al-Rodwan went on saying that Gaza businessmen had noticed in the previous years that due to Israeli restrictions on Palestinian economy, more investment flowed into the stocks market, adding "the process is so easy, what you need to do is to operate online and to follow up the stocks exchange markets in the world."
"There are 40,000 investors in the Palestine Exchange, and the profit for the local stocks investment companies reached 8 percent annually. This is really encouraging," said al-Rodwan.
The Palestine Exchange is located at the Nablus, a northern West Bank city. There are near 50 listed companies on the exchange with total value of around 3 billion U.S. dollars, which constitutes a strong position in the Palestinian economy.
Most of the listed companies are profitable and trade in Jordanian dinar, while others trade in U.S. dollars.
The Palestine Exchange was established in 1995 and introduced its first trading session in 1997. It was fully automated upon establishment, the first fully-automated stock exchange in the Arab world and the only Arab exchange that is publicly traded and fully owned by the private sector.
However, observers and economists were critical of the structure of the listed companies on the exchange.
Hammed Jadd, an expert in economy from Gaza, told Xinhua that big companies in fields of telecommunications and electricity account the largest share in the profit among the listed companies.
"I think it is unhealthy phenomenon because the economy in the Gaza Strip is a distorted economy that does not enjoy the required stability compared to the economy of neighboring countries," said Jadd.
Moreover, despite the growing popularity of trading on the Palestine Exchange, the participation rate of the Gaza Strip does not exceed 17 percent so far, according to experts. Enditem