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Union Construction and Investment Cancels $30 Million Investment in Palestine Due to Arbitrary and Biased Actions by the Al-Bireh Municipality
Jan 17, 2012

Ramallah: Union Construction and Investment (UCI), an industry leader in construction and real-estate development in Palestine, has officially cancelled a 30 million USD investment after experiencing unfair, arbitrary, and biased treatment at the hands of the Al-Bireh Municipality, adjacent to Ramallah in the central West Bank. After completing its Etihad Villas project, one of largest residential communities in Palestine, UCI became a top investor in the area governed by the Al Bireh Municipality.

During the Second Intifada, at a time when Palestine was severely suffering from Israeli’s military occupation and the Palestinian economy was experiencing a sharp decline, UCI decided to invest in Palestine by building the Etihad Villas project: a 62 unit housing development, amounting to an investment of 12 million USD. The Etihad Villas has become the beacon for proper urban planning and residential development in Palestine. During its construction, the Etihad Villas employed roughly one thousand Palestinian workers, as UCI worked to help create a sustainable Palestinian economy, reliant on investment from Palestinians as opposed to foreign aid.

UCI bore the entire cost of extending infrastructure to its Etihad Villas project, including the full cost of extending water, electricity, and roads - a service that is supposed to be and is normally provided by a functioning municipality. Furthermore, to meet its own objectives of sustainability, UCI installed a complete sewage water treatment plant at the project – again at its own cost. In spite of UCI’s effort and significant investment, UCI has received nothing from the Al-Bireh Municipality and its staff other than a refusal to co-operate, debilitating bureaucratic setbacks, and unethical practices of mistreatment and discrimination.  

Moreover, the Al-Bireh Municipality has declined to issue a permit for the already-completed Etihad Villa’s Social Club building, a 1.2 million USD investment constructed for the purpose of providing various services to the residents of the Etihad Villas and the surrounding Al-Bireh community. Additionally, the Al-Bireh Municipality refused to provide a commercial designation for any piece of land in the Etihad Villas project, as it is obligated to do by law. Failing to meet its responsibilities to public safety, the Al-Bireh Municipality also has not built a retaining wall nor a railing for the road leading to the Etihad Villas, placing the community residents and their children at risk.

Finally, in an attempt to blackmail UCI, the Al-Bireh Municipality is attempting to appropriate 50% of the land on which the Etihad Villas project was built, thus surpassing the already exorbitant 30% maximum that it is allowed to acquire according to Palestinian Authority law.

As a result, it is with great regret that UCI has decided to end all investments in any projects under the authority of Al-Bireh municipality and has decided to cancel a 30 million USD project that has already been designed and is ready for implementation.

Speaking about UCI’s experience with the Al-Bireh Municipality, UCI’s General Manager,  Khaled Al Sabawi stated that, “The Al-Bireh Municipality works exclusively for its own interests and not for the benefit of the community. The head of the Al-Bireh Municipality bares the full responsibility for the crippling bureaucracy and sheer incompetence that dominates the municipality. Working with Al-Bireh Municipality has unfortunately affirmed a disheartening fact: the Palestine I was raised to believe in while growing up in the diaspora is an ideal that exists only in the minds and hearts Palestinians. What exists in reality is a fragmented territory that is completely mismanaged by the lowest common denominator of Palestinian society. In addition to the many obstacles we already face from the Israeli occupation, it is sad that we have to deal with unnecessary obstacles created by our own people.”

Speaking about the cancellation of their 30 million USD project, Mr. Al Sabawi stated: “At time when Palestinians are massively reliant on donor aid, which now accounts for 30% of Palestinian GDP, and while Palestinians face increasing unemployment, such a project would have provided thousands of jobs for Palestinians and greatly benefitted the Palestinian economy. The Al-Bireh Municipality bares full responsibility for this.”

UCI has decided to press charges against the Al-Bireh Municipality and its staff in order to defend its rights and the rights of its over 1,500 shareholders. UCI also calls upon Dr. Laila Ghannam, the head of the Ramallah Governorate and Dr. Khaled Qawasmi, the Minister of Local Government, to intervene and investigate the conduct of the Al-Bireh Municipality. Furthermore, UCI requests that large investors deal directly with the Ramallah Governorate and the Ministry of Local Government and bypass local municipalities such as the Al-Bireh Municipality, which are quickly pushing away investors from Palestine.

UCI has constructed landmark buildings including the environmentally friendly UCI Headquarters Building in the Masyoun Heights of Ramallah, the Arcadia Residential Complex, and the first residential housing project in the West Bank, the Etihad Villas. In Palestine, UCI is the largest investor in sustainable urban development and the use of renewable energy. Through its award winning subsidiary, MENA Geothermal, UCI has installed energy saving geothermal heating & cooling systems in each of its residential and commercial projects.

Recently, The Palestine Stock Exchange has selected UCI among four other companies representing Jerusalem in 2012 for the investment sector.

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