Conservatives yield to no one in our criticisms of government. We ridicule bloated programs, lampoon inefficient management, and yearn for the day when private sector principles bring some measure of accountability to the federal government.
But if we are to remain so prone to criticize, we must also, in order to retain our credibility, be able to point to examples where the private sector or public-private partnerships have delivered—or are likely to deliver—solutions to our thorniest public policy problems.
We have such an example in the recently approved Middle East Investment Initiative (MEII), a $228 million partnership that will provide loans to business owners and entrepreneurs in Palestine. This public-private program has taken shape over two years of collaborative efforts between the Aspen Institute, the American Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), and the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF).
Under the plan, small and family-owned businesses in Palestine are eligible for loans, ranging from $10,000 to $500,000. The program specifically targets small and medium-sized businesses because they comprise 90 percent of the registered businesses in Palestine, and thus stand to gain the most from such an endeavor.
Participating Palestinian commercial banks, microfinance institutions, and non-governmental organizations will administer the financial assistance, which is guaranteed by OPIC and the PIF. Donations from American, European, and Arab donors to the nonprofit and non-ideological Aspen Institute will cover most of the operating costs. The Norwegian government alone has pledged to contribute $5 million.
The sharp minds behind this program understand that economic prosperity does not guarantee peace, or even fully safeguard basic human rights. But it does give individual citizens a skin in the game that they might have never had otherwise. Indeed, this program does a great deal to take down the high collateral barriers that have prevented many Palestinian businesses from procuring loans that could help them grow their businesses and, in turn, expand economic opportunity for others.
What might that economic expansion look like? Well, some estimates say the program could increase employment at small businesses by as much as 400 percent and at larger firms by 240 percent. The average output of all businesses is expected to increase by 90 percent, certainly a number worth an investment.
Doug Wilson is the the co-author, with Edwin Feulner, of Getting America Right: The True Conservative Values Our Nation Needs Today.
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