The Bank of Palestine has seen its profits rise during 2013, despite the wider economic problems facing the territory.

Net profit reached $40.4m, an increase of 5.5 per cent compared with $38.3m recorded in 2012.

The bank also increased its assets by more than 17 per cent to reach $2.4bn last year.

The institution increased its lending activity, with loans rising by 13 per cent to reach $1.1bn in 2013.

Increasing access to credit, particularly to small-to-medium-sized companies (SMEs), has been a key priority for the Bank of Palestine. It also looks to provide services to untapped sections of Palestine’s economy, such as women and entrepreneurs.

“We still need to connect communities that have been really underserved and don’t have basic banking services,” Hashim Shawa, CEO of the bank, told MEED last year.

The lender is growing despite predictions of economic slowdown. The latest report from the Washington-based IMF, released in September, forecasts growth to drop to 4.5 per cent in 2013 and decline to 3 per cent by 2016. In comparison, GDP in 2011 stood at 12.2 per cent.

A World Bank report released in October said growth is restricted due to the fact that more than 60 per cent of land in the West Bank remains inaccessible to Palestine.

Last year did see some improvements to the territory’s investor and business environment.

In June 2013, US index compiler MSCI released a standalone country index for Palestine, which is the first step towards getting the territory on one of the broader MSCI indices. This could lead to increased foreign investments in firms listed on the Palestine Exchange.