U.S. Gov't Funding $313M in Mortgages—For Palestinians on West Bank

By Terence P. Jeffrey | August 27, 2013 | 10:44am EDT

A vineyard near the West Bank city of Nablus. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

(CNSNews.com) - The U.S. government will fund $313 million in home mortgages for Palestinians living on the West Bank, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Monday.

The U.S. will also guarantee $110 million in loans to small- and medium-sized businesses located on the West Bank.

The mortgage and business-loan activities will be conducted by the federal Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). “OPIC is the U.S. Government’s development finance institution,” says OPIC’s website. “OPIC provides financial products, such as loans and guaranties; political risk insurance; and support for investment funds, all of which help American businesses expand into emerging markets.”

The GAO report released Tuesday described some of the actions OPIC is taking in the emerging market of the Palestinian territories.

“U.S. agencies and implementing partners participate in various programs with the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF) or PIF-owned entities that include home mortgage financing, loan guarantees, and educational initiatives,” says the report. “First, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) along with PIF and other entities have committed to lend $485 million to the Affordable Mortgage and Loan Company (AMAL) to support mortgages for low- and medium-income borrowers in the West Bank.

“OPIC has committed to lend about $313 million; PIF has committed about $72 million, and two banks account for the balance of the committed lending,” says the GAO. “However, as of April 2013, OPIC and PIF had not yet disbursed any funds. Second, OPIC and PIF are co-guarantors in a Loan Guarantee Facility (LGF) program in the West Bank, guaranteeing up to $110 million and $50 million in loans, respectively, to nine regional banks to support lending to small- and medium-sized enterprises.”

The PIF is an entity that was created by the Palestinian Authority president.

“PIF is governed by a board of directors and a general assembly appointed by the Palestinian Authority President, and manages investments throughout a number of sectors, including real estate and hospitality, infrastructure, finance, capital markets, small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and manufacturing,” says the GAO.

The GAO reported that OPIC says it has checked the foreign bankers and executives it is dealing with in its West Bank loan program for terrorists connections. OPIC says it has also checked borrowers.

“OPIC officials stated that OPIC has vetted PIF’s board of directors and senior executives, the non-U.S. board members and shareholders of AMAL, and key officials of the banks against information sources such as the FBI Terrorist Screening Center database, OFAC list, and OPIC’s Information Center databases,” says the GAO report. “For the LGF program, OPIC said that, based on OPIC’s procedures and the LGF agreements, it has vetted all the participating banks and has vetted key officials of each borrower and guarantor before loans are approved using information sources such as Treasury’s Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes and FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center databases.”

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