As we continue to brace ourselves with the impact of Covid -19 on the Globe and on the Palestinian economy; we have welcomed the holy month of Ramadan with the hope that this ordeal will not be long lived and that the resolve of our humanity and solidarity shall prevail.
Companies will be judged by their customers and stakeholders on how they behaved during this crisis. As the largest Banking Group in Palestine, we have honored our shareholders by conducting our AGM on schedule; distributing cash and stock dividends in line with our commitment towards shareholder value. We have managed to weather the challenges of 2019 because of our resilience to remain steadfast despite adversity. This was made possible by the stewardship of the Board of Directors, adaptive management, and staff dedication coupled with tried and tested internal crisis mitigation strategies typically in place to mitigate political risks but this time dealing with a health pandemic risk.
Certainly, the Covid -19 challenges and possible additional operational impact are things that we have not fully factored yet and this will be an ongoing work in the coming quarters as we assess the results of lingering lockdown and severe slowdown on the economy. But we know for sure that as a banking group we have upheld our values and treated our staff with the foremost attention to their safety and health and our customers with added attention to their well being and financial health. We have strived to balance between safety and business continuity, sustaining our operations from day one with efficient management of the interruptions imposed by the health concerns with social distancing and digital connectivity.
We have implemented a multistakeholder strategy to assist national efforts to combat the virus and provided support to our health system, to the social welfare of exposed families and to assistance of unemployed laborers forced out of their daily bread winning. We have redirected our CSR budgets and raised funds from our diaspora networks and utilized the digital platforms of our group's e payments company PalPay to provide electronic payment solutions to the thousands of exposed families in a dignified and private manner. We are planning ahead and imbedding more resilience in our future strategies; especially in the digital domain with the licensing of the first E Wallet in the country for PalPay this month and the announcement of an E Government Tender as well.
We are proud to say that our banking group was able to maintain both shareholder and stakeholder value at the same footing. We have planted deep rooted seeds of trust with our community and we see hope in the resilience this community has shown. We are confident that our customers, our stakeholders and our community will shield us from the economic downturn because of the trust we have built and the values we have displayed during the covid -19 crisis.
Certain sectors will naturally suffer, but other sectors will show promise for growth in the health services, pharmaceutical, supply chains and digital domains. We stand ready to support our customers especially in the ailing sectors and SMEs with financial restructuring and the new growth sectors with additional finance in partnership with like minded Multilateral Development Banks and Loan Guarantee Agencies. The Government and the Banking regulator PMA have also announced forming a $300 million SME financing fund in partnership with the banks. We are working towards sustaining our commitment to the real economy and providing SMEs with finance they need as this sector remains the engine for the economy and the most susceptible sector to the wrath of Covid-19.
As I send this message to our shareholders we are seeing some positive moves towards reviving the economy. Our government has started to ease up the lockdown allowing more businesses and sectors to open up including the Palestine Exchange.
As I bid you a Ramadan Mubarak and a safe passage through this ordeal, I am happy on behalf of the Bank of Palestine Group to present the annual report for 2019 in english and the AGM films in Arabic and English in which we could see the spirit and energy of optimism that we managed to have in 2019; and continuing in 2020 with even more determination to enhance our resilience to help our country and our people withstand the current crisis and look ahead for a healthy and prosperous horizon.
With my best wishes for your health and safety and deep appreciation for you trust and confidence
Bank of Palestine Group