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Palestine still seems to be years away from achieving status as an independent nation. The Palestine territories include the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem, but the Hamas-controlled Gaza area has thus far prevented a permanent union of a proposed Arab nation. Israel forced the evacuation of its citizens from Gaza in 2005 as part of its peaceful disengagement plan, but nearly 15% of the West Bank population are still Israelis.
Economy. Unemployment has been rampant, reaching 50% in 2005, but it was reduced to 24% by 2008. Due to the Israeli blockade, factories in the Palestinian territories performed at less than 20% capacity. But things have improved since then.
In 2009, an economic boom began with growth reaching 8 percent, higher than in Israel or the West. Tourism to Bethlehem, which had doubled to 1 million in 2008, rose to nearly 1.5 million in 2009. New car imports increased by 44 percent. New shopping malls opened in Jenin and Nablus. As an outcome of the Palestine Investment Conference, Palestinian developers are planning to build the first modern Palestinian city, Rawabi.
In 2010, Ramallah was described as a hub of the economic activity thanks to the improved security situation, successful battle against corruption and large consumer base.
Education. Palestine's literacy rate is one of the highest in the world at 99.8%. There are nearly equal amounts of boys-only, girls-only and coed schools, and education is compulsory through grade 10. Approximately 18% of the total government expenditure is set aside for education. At least 11 universities (and many other smaller colleges) are located in the Palestinian territories.
Industry and Natural Resources. The primary industries in the region include textiles, cement, soap, food processing, and stone quarrying. Primary exports include
Olives, Fruit, Vegetables, Limestone, Citrus, Flowers, Textiles
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