Peretz declares support for free market

"I support the free market and competition, and I look upon the activity of the capital markets as valuable."

By YIGAL GRAYEFF
December 1, 2005 01:28
3 minute read.
amir peretz 298.88

amir peretz 298.88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Amir Peretz, the leader of the Labor Party and the Histadrut labor federation, portrayed himself as a capitalist on Wednesday but said he would still fight to protect the rights of the ordinary citizen. "I support the free market and competition, and I look upon the activity of the capital markets as valuable activity that creates demand and attracts foreign investors," he said at an insurance and capital markets conference in Tel Aviv. He told the delegates that they had a part to play in fighting for the causes he believes in, such as reducing poverty and guarding the rights of the ordinary citizen. "I see in this building partners for everything, because poverty is not only a lack of bread, but rather it is a wider issue: there is poverty in progress, in education and in culture. Therefore, I look upon members of the capital markets, pensions and finance as full partners in the success of Israeli society and its prosperity," he said. Some investors have been skeptical about Peretz's business-friendly credentials due to the numerous strikes he has called as the head of the Histadrut and his call for an increase in the minimum wage to $1,000 a month. When he was elected the head of the Labor Party, the dollar dropped sharply, causing Excellence Nessuah chief economist Shlomo Maoz to warn that if Peretz were to carry out his economic policies there could be a flight of capital from Israel and further weakness in the shekel. "There is essentially concern that the Labor Party is getting stronger. The market is opposed to the return of Bolshevik [economic] practices," he said at the time. However, he has also received support from investors and economic experts, and Ben-Gurion University president and former World Bank economist Avishay Braverman joined his party. Commstock Financial Consultants chief executive David Zwebner said he accepts Peretz's market-friendly portrayal of himself as truthful. "When Amir Peretz claims that he supports the free market and views Tony Blair as his role model, I believe him," said Zwebner. "The Histadrut is far more capitalistic than was once thought possible," he added.


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