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The Governor of the Palestinian Monetary Authority (PMA) Dr. Jihad Al-Wazir, said yesterday that a number of foreign banks have earlier this year began communicating with the PMA for opening of branches in the Palestinian territories, without disclosing the nationalities of those banks. Al Wazir added, "There is a conversation between us and some foreign banks that have expressed an aim to open branches in Palestine, and asked us for data on banks’ status, the economy in addition to laws and regulations in force in the Palestinian banking system. These have been sent to them two weeks ago." He said: “We hope that we succeed in attracting a number of these banks in order to add a qualitative value for banks operating in Palestine”.
Currently, 18 banks operate in the Palestinian territories, of which eight are Palestinian banks and eight are Jordanian in addition to one Egyptian bank and another British. These banks own number of branches in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
He explained: "Based on the instructions of the Monetary Authority regarding the minimum capital for a bank of $ 50 million; the year 2011 has witnessed signing of several memorandums of understanding on merging between local banks and other non-local that are supposed to take place during the first half of this year." Al Wazir said that prospective mergers in the banking sector will lead to reducing the number of banks in the Palestinian territories to 16 banks. He said: "It is expected that with the completion of the mergers, the number of banks will be reduced to 16 with reference to the year 2010 that witnessed the liquidation of two banks which are Al-Aqsa and Palestine International Bank. These actions come within the framework of the restructuring of the Palestinian banking system."
He continued: "The Palestinian banking system is one of the best banking systems in the region, with a good growth and size of revenue. These banks operate in a coherent environment despite the political situation, and apply international standards. The banking system"s liquidity is good because the banks are conservative in granting facilities because of political risk.”