An investment conference is set to take place in Nablus at the beginning of October, with the hope of attracting $1.5bn in private sector funding to boost the economy of the northern West Bank.

Palestine Development & Investment Company (Padico) will formally unveil the conference in mid-August, and will begin speaking to local and foreign businesses to propose specific projects for the event.

The event will take place soon after Ramadan, which ends in late September.

The event aims to maintain the momentum in interest created by the Bethlehem conference in May and has received the full support of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Nablus has been selected because the northern West Bank benefited least from the $1.4bn worth of projects agreed in Bethlehem.

While the May conference focused on construction and housing, the October event will target industry and agriculture.

“Bethlehem laid the ground for new economic development in Palestine, and brought momentum to economic projects around the country, but it was felt that there was a need for projects targeting specific sectors and geographic areas,” says Samir Hulileh, chief executive officer of Padico, who was a key figure in the organisation of the Bethlehem conference. “The feeling was that the north had been slightly left to one side and Nablus has suffered parti-cularly badly from the Israeli closure.”

The event will seek to breathe new life into plans for an economic zone near Jenin, and to boost agriculture in the Jordan Valley (MEED 13:5:08).

The industrial capability of Nablus, which is severely depleted because of Israeli restrictions on the movement of people and goods in and out of the city, will also receive renewed investment.

“We are also looking at cement and steel production, power generation projects and two new industrial zones in the area,” says Hulileh. “We want to make sure these are not just events where politicians just make statements. We want to do tangible business.”

Discussions are also under way for another Palestinian investment conference in London this year, and a tourism event in Bethlehem if the Nablus conference proves to be a success.

Meanwhile, Padico has confirmed that the planned privatisation of the Palestinian Securities Exchange will not take place until 2009. The sell-off had been planned for 2008 but Padico is still drawing up its strategy.