Share wealth with PA, says OECD Sec.-Gen. Angel Gurria

By SHARON WROBEL
November 21, 2010 23:50

Gurria to Israel: ‘You are doing better than most other countries’; need to ensure maintain prudence, position itself in a good position.

4 minute read.



OECD Sec.-Gen. Angel Gurria at cabinet meeting

OECD Sec.-Gen. Angel Gurria cabinet meeting 311. (photo credit: Pool)

Israel should share its wealth with its neighbors, not just for ethical reasons but also for economic ones, visiting OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria said Sunday.

“Israel should share its great wealth with its neighbors, like the Palestinians, in areas like governance and investment, as well the building of institutions,” he said in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post. “This is a good opportunity.

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It is not just a matter of ethics but [also] for economical reasons.”

Gurria arrived Saturday for a three-day visit, his third time here since the OECD announced in May 2007 that Israel was in the process of accession into its ranks. Israel was approved as the 33rd member of the OECD this May at the annual summit of OECD ministers in Paris.

“It is a very difficult environment in Israel,” Gurria said.

“You are doing better than most other countries. You are collecting debt at a slower pace. The impact on unemployment has been slower. But is that enough? No it is not enough. Israel needs to make sure it maintains prudence and positions itself in a good position.”

“Israel is a producer of growth,” he said, “but you are not going to be pushed by exports, as the world economy is going through very mediocre growth and a slow recovery. Looking forward, Israel needs to focus on structural reforms and ways to build on domestic demand.”

Gurria praised Israel’s growth but said the haredi and Arab sectors lag behind the general public and should be integrated into the labor market.

“Israel has been doing very well, but there are challenges the country faces, like poverty and social integration of the Orthodox, Arab, Beduin and Ethiopian population, which will be essential for sustaining strong growth over time,” he said at an Israel Manufacturers Association meeting in Tel Aviv. “This is particularly important in a world in which in many countries the population is aging, while in Israel there is an available potential of workers of productive use.”

Earlier Sunday, Gurria attended the cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. He praised Israel’s economy and reiterated the benefits of Israel’s accession to the OECD.

At the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said: “Ours is a country that depends on export markets. The Israeli economy is currently performing better that most of the world’s advanced economies.

Therefore, if we count only on exports, we will be unable to keep advancing at the same pace to which we are accustomed.

Consequently, we must develop growth engines that do not depend on world markets.

“There is one such growth engine: the construction and real-estate markets in Israel. Young couples marry and have children, and, naturally, they want apartments, they need homes, malls and schools. All this is related to construction, and this is a growth engine in and of itself.”

Gurria said the OECD’s next economic analysis report on the Israeli economy would focus on the finance sector, especially the concentration of ownership and holdings of banks and companies. In addition, he said, it would take a closer look at the booming housing sector and its affect on inflation.

“We will also examine Israel’s new source of wealth, which is the potential of natural gas finds in the country,” Gurria said. “The question of gas taxes is one of the single-most important decisions of intergenerational responsibility for Israel. There are regimes all over the world who share the natural resources with the public, and there are no reasons why Israel should be an exception. The decision needs to be taken, and it will be far-reaching.”

Gurria began his day of meetings by calling on President Shimon Peres, who congratulated him on his third term as secretary general and thanked him profusely for his efforts in enabling Israel’s membership in the OECD.

Gurria told Peres that Israel’s economic growth of 4 percent was one of the highest among OECD members and its unemployment rate among the lowest.

He said Israel was among world leaders in scientific and technological developments.

Peres said one of the country’s key priorities was to make higher education accessible to all sectors and to introduce more technological subjects into school curricula.

Gurria intends to meet with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Industry Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer.

On Monday, he will receive an honorary PhD from the University of Haifa for his efforts in promoting economic cooperation through minimization of trade restrictions, reducing economic inequality, combating poverty, investing in human capital through better education and health services, and for his friendship and long-standing support for Israel.

Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.


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