Liberal Democrat Leader seeks establishment of Greater Manchester Business Forum to encourage trade with Palestine

The Leader of the Opposition and of the Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has written to Councillor Sir Richard Leese, Deputy Mayor for the Economy in the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the Leader of Oldham Council asking them to organise high-level events in Greater Manchester and in Oldham to enable the Palestinian Trade Representative in the UK to meet local business people to discuss British – Palestinian trade.

The date is especially auspicious as 29 November is in fact the United Nations Day for International Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

Councillor Sykes is backing the ‘1% initiative’ launched by the UK Government and the Palestinian Authority earlier this year. This seeks to promote Palestinian information technology businesses as prospective partners to UK businesses needing their services; it is hoped that 1% of UK business will be awarded to Palestinian firms.  This will help the Palestinian economy to flourish, meaning the new nation will be less dependent on aid and will help create jobs for Palestinians in their home country.

Commenting, Councillor Sykes said: “Whenever we see news about Palestine, it is usually concerned with the ongoing dispute between the Palestinian people and their Jewish neighbours and the scenes are invariably violent.  I am sure that many people have been shocked by the appalling plight of the Palestinian people, particularly in Gaza.  However there is another unreported side to Palestine in which, despite the adverse circumstances, the Palestinian people are seeking through their own industry and intellect to develop their economy and nation.”

Howard Sykes

Councillor Sykes added: “It is little known that Palestine has the potential to meet the IT outsourcing needs of many UK businesses and at a very competitive cost.  The Palestinian ICT sector currently employs 6,000 people and it constitutes over 7% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, and there are over 3,000 new IT graduates leaving Palestinian universities every year, all keen to find employment.  I think we should give them a helping hand by hosting some events to which our local businesses can be invited.  Hopefully this will lead to some bi-lateral trade deals.”

Palestine has expertise in software development and testing, network management and maintenance, business process outsourcing, web development, mobile applications, quality assurance and other technical areas. Graduates speak English to a good standard, and the Arabic accent is clear and easy to understand. Furthermore there is only a two hour difference between UK and Middle Eastern time.

In July 2018, the Minister of State for the Middle East Alastair Burt MP announced that the UK Government will provide up to £38 million in aid over the next five years to Palestine, in part to aid economic development. One of the objectives of the aid package is to ‘connect Palestinian IT firms and UK businesses to create jobs for Palestinians.’

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