Prime Minister Ehud Olmert presented an optimistic vision for the state of the Israeli economy 10 years out yesterday, forecasting that income per capita in the country would almost double. "In 10 years, Israel will come close to its dream, which is that Israel will turn into one of the economies in which income per capita is around $30,000, which is the high end of the European economies," Olmert said at the annual Prime Minister's Conference for Export and International Cooperation organized by the Israel Export Institute and the Israel Manufacturers' Association in Tel Aviv. Israeli per capita income was about $18,000 in 2005. Also speaking at the conference, Shraga Brosh, president of the Manufacturers' Association, praised the country's position at number 15 worldwide in the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index for 2006-2007, which established it as one of the world's most competitive economies, but said he was not satisfied. "Our goal is to move up 10 notches to number five on the index of the world's most competitive economies." Olmert noted that one of the great achievements of the country's economy was the positive balance of payments. "Just a few days ago, I discussed the state of the Israeli economy with the Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer, who said that if he had been asked five years ago when the balance of payments in Israel would turn positive he would have answered not in my life time; and then it happened this year," Olmert said in an interview with Sky News at the conference. Furthermore, Olmert emphasized the priority and importance of putting more investment in research & development to boost exports. "Export is the name of the game. We need to push for exports," he said. In addition, a genuine effort to reduce and close the income gap in Israel was needed, while dealing with social issues and the poverty trap, he said. On the issue of higher education, Olmert said this was an area in which the government must invest more and develop further. "I am in favor of changing student fees, introducing better or long-term student loans like in the US and scholarships and grants to promote the future life sciences and hi-tech professionals."