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
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“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.
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.
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
Gurria praised Israel’s growth but said the haredi and Arab
sectors lag behind the general public and should be integrated into the labor
“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
Therefore, if we count only on exports, we will be unable to
keep advancing at the same pace to which we are accustomed.
we must develop growth engines that do not depend on world
“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
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
“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
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
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
He said Israel was among world leaders in scientific and
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.
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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