'Education key to ending brain drain'

Africa Israel chairman Lev Leviev called on local companies to invest in Jewish education to keep the country's best from moving abroad.

lev leviev 88 298 (photo credit: Courtesy)
lev leviev 88 298
(photo credit: Courtesy)
As Israel deals with the ongoing loss of some of its best local talent, Africa Israel chairman Lev Leviev on Sunday called on local companies to invest in Jewish education to keep the country's best from moving abroad. "Had Israel invested more in Jewish education, more of our talent would have felt Israeli and stayed in the country," Leviev said at the Globes Israel Business Conference. "The problem of brain drain is of great concern to us." Leviev stressed that businesses need to take initiative to find the great minds in Israel and place them in Israeli businesses overseas. The businessman also outlined where he felt investment opportunities lay for Israeli companies abroad. "The Indian and Chinese markets are the most attractive markets moving forward and India is going to be one of the strongest areas for Israeli companies," he said, adding that emerging markets, and especially Russia, were good investment markets, as is Eastern Europe. "Despite signs of a slowdown, we see opportunities to continue to invest in the US," Leviev added. "We don't see a recession in the US, but rather a calm and this may provide a great opportunity for Israeli investors." Leviev's view of the US economy contrasted with that of visiting lecturer to the conference, Nouriel Roubini, professor of economics at the Stern School of Business at New York University, who outlined why he believes the US is about to enter a recession year and the effects it would have on the global economy and on Israel. "My view is that the US economy is in for a hard landing because of three forces that everyone recognizes," Roubini said, citing the slowdown in the housing market, high oil prices and the delayed effect of the increases in interest rates from 1 percent to 5.25%. He noted that these factors were more severe than similar shocks, which brought the recession in 2001. In particular, he said a recession driven by a real estate bust rather than a tech bubble burst would result in greater losses in real investment, more wealth that could be lost and a larger labor market that would be affected. Given Israel's competitiveness in the hi-tech market, Roubini stressed that Israel would not be as hurt by the prospective US slowdown as it was in 2001 but that it still would be affected given its reliance on the US as a trade partner. Yet, while Roubini, also commented on Israel's resilience in the face of the difficult geopolitical forces it faces, CNN's business travel journalist Richard Quest stressed that the investment climate in Israel always has to take the security situation into account. "Israel is a thriving economy with huge investment opportunities," Quest said. "But it can never reach its full potential until a peace agreement is achieved." Meanwhile, a session on the financial markets showed the banking, insurance and investment industry to still be skeptical over the achievements of the Bachar reforms some one-and-a-half years after their implementation. "When you look back at the aims of the reforms, in my opinion you don't see that these were achieved, and certainly not for the consumer who has received no benefit," said Eitan Raff, Chairman of Bank Leumi in a panel discussion on the post Bachar prospects of the financial system. Raff's sentiment was echoed by the seven other panelists from the banking, insurance and investments industry who all concluded that the banking sector was still centralized, with Banks Hapoalim and Leumi still holding 60 percent of the market, and the consumer not benefiting. Also at the conference, the Internet industry examined the prospects for Israeli companies in the Internet 2.0, or user generated content market. "In the next phase of growth content is king," said Uri Shenar, of aniboom.com. "The opportunity is not in providing an alternative for Yahoo, Google etc, but to read where the market is going next, and we are just at the beginning."