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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Despite political uncertainties in the region and instability in emerging markets, members of the World Pension Forum delegation visiting Israel this week are confident the country is an attractive long-term prospect for their investment dollars.
"If you look at the economy, despite some of the changes in the politics here, it has proven itself and continues to grow," delegate Joy Higa, deputy control board member of CalPers (California Public Employees' Retirement System), told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday. "So while [political stability] is always something that we will look at, as in any foreign country that we invest in, I think this delegation is confident the Israeli economy will continue to be strong."
Higa added that the capital market reforms implemented by the government a year ago were also a factor contributing to the attractiveness of investing in the local economy and that the delegation was particularly interested to learn more about these changes and how they affect the investment landscape here.
With a combined $1 trillion of investment funds under their management, the 45-person delegation arrived Sunday at the invitation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert after he addressed a World Pension Forum Conference in Florida last year.
Headed by WPF President Phil Schaefer, the mission is aimed at exposing the group, many of whom are in Israel for the first time, to the economic, political and cultural landscape in the country.
Their itinerary includes meetings with Olmert, Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni, Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter, as well as business leaders. They also attended the Israel Venture Association conference Tuesday where co-chairman for the mission, New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, received the IVA's Israel Hi-Tech Award.
While no immediate investment deals are expected from the visit, Isaac Applbaum, founding general partner of Opus Capital and one of the mission organizers, said he feels the group will get enough of an impression about Israel to understand that there are real longer-term investment opportunities here.
CalPers' Higa, meanwhile, said the delegation was very interested in learning about industry opportunities they might pursue for investment, rather than specific companies, and singled out Israel's development in the water industry and stem cell research as two areas that had sparked interest.
"We are learning about how the Israeli government and the academic community are serving as an incubator for growth in those two industries," she said.