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(photo credit: Courtesy)
IF THE Jerusalem City Council really wants to upgrade the center of town and its surroundings, it should send a delegation to Singapore to see how it's done, opines Yishai Klein, the Singapore-based Asia and the Pacific Director for Giza Venture Capital. Klein, who lived in Jerusalem and earned a BA in Economics and International Relations from the Hebrew University before relocating to Singapore six years ago. Klein, who came to Jerusalem with his wife and children for the High Holy Day period and part of Succot, has been walking around the city, and says it looks tired and neglected. Not enough attention is given to maintenance and long-term planning he insists. In Singapore, it is mandatory for apartment owners to pay money into a reserve fund in addition to monthly payments towards general maintenance. Each apartment complex has a committee that decides at intervals of up to five years, on how the money in the reserve fund is to be used to upgrade the building - it may need to be sand-blasted, or have the garden totally replanted, or it might need the stairwells renovated, or for bare walls in public areas to be repainted. Money from the reserve fund is spent upon agreed-upon priorities with the idea of increasing the value of the property.
Klein says that even luxury hotels in Jerusalem are beginning to look tired and dilapidated compared to the sparkle of Singapore. He is also disappointed with the quality of the roads and pavements, which are full of cracks and potholes, and he is equally unhappy that both public and private gardens in Jerusalem are not properly tended and that lawns are not manicured. If Jerusalem wants to sell itself to tourists, he says, it ought to spruce up. Klein remembers the days when it was illegal to operate businesses in residential premises, but in walking around Rehavia in particular, he has noticed a high proportion of residential buildings - especially those that are closer to town - in which dentists, doctors, lawyers and architects are conducting their businesses. This is creating night-time ghost towns, observes Klein, in addition to which it is pushing up rental prices beyond the capacity of individuals who want to live in the area.
WHILE ON the subject of Singapore, Sheldon Adelson, the chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands, anticipates opening an even larger casino in Singapore than that which he opened recently in Macao at a cost $2.4 billion. The Singapore project originally estimated at $3.5b. could soar by as much as $1.4b., as a result of a ban imposed by Indonesia on sand exports to Singapore. Another hurdle that Las Vegas Sands had to overcome was getting rid of embedded rocks on the site. Despite the difficulties, the developers expect the mega-project on the Singapore waterfront to be completed some time in 2009. In addition to the gaming area, which will include a club for high rollers, the project will encompass 2,500 hotel rooms, a huge convention area and an enormous shopping mall. The project, which will be Singapore's first casino venture, will be the biggest in the world until Adelson decides to build a bigger one elsewhere. Casino gambling was banned in Singapore up until last year when there was a drastic drop in tourism from Asia and the Pacific. The casino, one of two currently under construction in Singapore, is among several attractions being introduced to lure tourists from around the globe. Another attraction is what is touted to be the world's largest Ferris wheel. In addition, ground has been broken at the Marina Bayfront for the construction of facilities for its Formula 1 race. The latter project, which will cost approximately $20m., will be completed around mid-2008.
ONE OF the founding fathers of Israel's biotech industry and a prominent figure in global biotech, Prof. Max Herzberg, has joined the board of directors of MND Diagnostic, a diagnostics start-up company that develops kits to detect live viruses. Herzberg, a private entrepreneur and angel investor, brings with him 30 years of academic and industrial experience in biotechnology. Abraham Marilus, the representative of Switzerland's Dreyfus and Marilus families who recently invested $4.7m. in MND, emphasized Herzberg's extensive experience and international ties will surely be instrumental in promoting the development of the virus detection kit to a finished product as well as in securing projects for the company and in establishing its marketing channels.
Following an academic career as a professor of molecular biology at Tel Aviv University, Herzberg founded several successful biotech companies such as D-Pharm and Orgenics. He also served as chairman of Fertiseeds, founding chairman of Vecta, chairman and president of Sepal Pharma, chairman of Anima Cell Metrology, co-founder of Molecular Cytomics, and chairman of EMBLEM - European Molecular Biology Labs Enterprise Management - a technology transfer organization located in Heidelberg. Herzberg has also served as vice president of the Pasteur Institute's "company nursery" in Paris, and has sat on committees of the Chief Scientist as senior adviser. He has published three books on the deciphering of the genetic code and more than 100 academic papers.
THE AIX Group, which includes Israeli, Palestinian and international economists, met in Paris over the past weekend after a two-year research period, to present the results of their current research. The focus of the Aix research is to analyze various alternatives aimed at improving and regulating economic relations between Israel and the Palestinians, as part of a final settlement between two states. The group has been working together for five years at the initiative of the Paul Cezanne and Aix En Provence universities in France, in cooperation with the Peres Center for Peace in Tel Aviv and the Palestinian DATA research Institute in Bethlehem. The Israeli team is headed by Professor Arie Arnon of Ben-Gurion University in the Negev. The Palestinian team is headed by Saeb Bamya, an economic adviser to the Palestinian Industrialists Union and formerly the director general of the Palestinian Ministry of the Economy. Subjects discussed included Palestinian refugees; cooperation in Jerusalem; and cooperation on infrastructures. Meanwhile, the Aix Group submitted three brief position papers on short-term economic issue namely: The trade arrangement between Israel the Palestinians; Developing the Palestinian labor market; and Developing the Jordan Valley. The group has begun the fourth stage of research, in which it will focus on analyzing the economic aspects of the Arab peace initiative. The group has already developed an outline for the research program. Among those attending the Paris conference were the personal assistant of the EU's special envoy to the Middle East, representatives of the European Council, head of the World Bank office in the West Bank, a representative of the International Monetary Fund and representatives of the French Foreign Office. The fruit of the research has been presented to Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Haim Ramon, Palestinian Minister of the Economy Camel Hasouna and the French Minister of European Affairs Jean-Pierre Jouyet. The meeting was also attended by Israel's ambassador to France Daniel Shek and Palestinian representative to France Hind Khoury.
DESPITE THE number of casualties in traffic accidents, the lack of attention paid to road safety regulations is indicative of the fact that one can lead a horse to water, but one can't make it drink. Changes in the approach to making the public more safety conscious will be strategized in the new Ran Naor Center for Research into Road Safety that was recently launched at the Haifa Technion at a ceremony in which an agreement was signed by Technion President Yitzhak Apeloig, Chairman of the Or Yarok (Green Light) organization Avi Naor and Chairman of the Institute for Traffic Studies Prof. David Mahalal. Chairman of the Road Safety Authority Dr. Yoav Sarna and Chief Scientist at the Ministry for Transportation Prof. Yosef Parshker expressed the hope that they would become signatories to the agreement by the end of the year.