Business and Businessmen in Palestine – a glimpse into the views of Yasser Abbas

Excerpts from an interview with Yasser Abbas in Ramallah – 18 December 2008 – by Marian Houk – Part 3
Other excerpts:
Part 4: Separation of Powers in Ramallah
Part 2: Fatah and Hamas – what’s the problem?
Part 1: Fatah and Hamas – and the Abbas family house in Gaza

Question (Marian Houk):  Let me start by asking you what you do here, what your business is?

Answer (Yasser Abbas):  Well, I’m a civil engineer by profession.  I manage a group of companies called, mainly, the Falcon Holding Group that represents a few companies that deal with construction management, contracting, trading, and insurance – basically, that’s it – in Palestine and outside Palestine.

Q: Do you spend most of your time here, or are you mostly outside?

A: No, I’m most of the time outside. [But] I’m based in Palestine.  My family is here.  If you want to call where’s my home – home is Palestine for me, and that’s where my main business originally originated.  That’s where my family lived.  That’s where my kids went to school, and one of them is still in school.  My wife is around always, all the time.  [In the second part of this interview, published yesterday, Yasser Abbas also said: “the second company I established in my life was in Palestine, in Ramallah, 1996, when Mahmoud Abbas was not the President, not the Prime Minister.  He was Secretary-General of the PLO.  I decided to open a company, and to go and compete like any other company in the market.  And there you go, it happened.  And from 1996 until 2000, we had those rosy years that we’ve never seen back again.  Everybody was working.  So we went and started bidding, and we started making relations with international companies coming from outside, like any other engineering office.  So, that’s the way I started, and that’s the way I do business here, in Palestine.  I can claim that all my projects that I take are competitive bidding.  Nobody has any privilege to me, personally, to come and tell me, ‘I will give you this’, or ‘I will give you that’.  Nobody has any power to do so.  I have no power over anyone, and I mean anyone, to tell them, ‘This project is mine, nobody touches it’.   Or, ‘I have a concession on such-and-such sector, and nobody touches’.  I don’t have that.  I challenge, I challenge, though you, publicly, anyone – anyone – who can come to me and point his finger at me to tell me, ‘I, or we, or such-and-such agency or ministry, gave you the job’, or ‘I have a concession on any sector of this economy’.  I challenge him. ]

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