WASHINGTON – Talks in Washington last week at the International Monetary Fund
annual conference of bankers and financiers were relaxed and optimistic, except
for one overwhelming concern: Washington itself.
At a breakfast held by
Bank Hapoalim at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown, bank leaders expressed
frustration with the political impasse that may soon threaten America’s ability
to pay its bills. If an agreement is not reached, the US will be without the
authority to borrow as of October 17.
“In today’s market, people are
looking for yield and are looking for stability, and Israel, really, is a
mixture of both,” Bank Hapoalim chairman Yair Seroussi told The Jerusalem Post.
“The importance now of stability within the US system is more important than
ever, and everybody is looking now at the US.”
The US risks sending a
message of uncertainty with the protracted crisis, he said.
growth rate of 3.3 percent to 3.5% is relatively high for today’s environment,
when counting Israel among developed countries.
The US growth rate has
ticked up beyond 2% since the 2008 recession, a sign of measurable progress for
its trading partners that are concerned by the crisis.
conversations at the IMF, Seroussi said a prominent issue of interest was
Israel’s anticipated gas projects, following the discovery of large deposits of
oil and gas off its coast in 2011.
“It’s hard for me to explain the
strategic importance for a country like Israel, which is isolated,” he said.
“All of a sudden we are completely energy independent. We do not depend on
Forty percent of Israel’s gas needs have historically
been met by Egypt. Now, for the first time, the interim Egyptian government is
in talks with private American and Israeli firms to possibly buy Israeli gas, as
are the governments of Turkey and Cyprus.
At the breakfast, the Israeli
bankers told their global counterparts Israel continues to invest a higher
percentage of its GDP proportionally in research and development than any other
country in the world.
Among the guests at the conference were finance
leaders from Chile, Canada, New York, Japan and Istanbul.
is the largest bank in Israel, and last week it was selected as Israel’s best
bank for 2013 by Global Finance magazine.
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