Fischer: Israel will join OECD before I leave

"It's not advisable to commit to an exact date, but we hope it will come very soon. Certainly before my term is up, and even before term of the finance minister ends."

oecd88224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer vowed Monday that Israel will become a full-fledged member of the elite Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) by the time he leaves office. Fischer, who was appointed governor in 2005, has two years and three months remaining in his five-year term. He spoke during a press conference at the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem, held jointly with Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On and OECD Deputy Secretary-General Thelma Ackey, who arrived with other senior OECD members to initiate a complex process aimed at granting Israel membership in the organization. "We hope to reach the most important next stage, that is joining, relatively quickly," Fischer said. "It's not advisable to commit to an exact date, but we hope it will come very soon. Certainly before my term is up, and even before the term of the finance minister ends." Israel will join four other countries - Russia, Estonia, Slovenia and Chile - in attempting to gain membership to the OECD, which today is made up of 30 of the most economically developed states. The OECD is about to apply a series of tests to Israel's economic policies to ascertain what needs to be done by the government to ensure membership. Fischer said 15 interministerial committees had come together to help speed up the process. "We've been asked, he said, 'Why do we want to join?'…The most important answer is because the OECD, for the past 50 years of its existence, has developed very positive working practices for governments... [for] every sector which is important for governments - education, finances, the environment and direct investments." "Each government learns from its colleagues in the most developed countries in the world," Fischer said. "This is an excellent way to learn and increase standards in our government and to strengthen the Israeli market. The approval we received to begin the process of joining the OECD is very important and is a recognition of our progress." "Another motive is to continue the reforms of structural changes in the Israeli market, which this government and I assume every Israeli government is planning to continue until we reach a level equivalent to that of the most developed countries in the word," he added. Israel would enjoy a credit boost through OECD membership, Fischer said, adding: "That's not the main factor. The main thing is that this will provide us with help in a process which every government wants." During the press conference, Ackey said Israel met many of the requirements needed for membership. "Israel already adheres to some OECD declarations on international investment and mutual data-sharing on chemicals," she said, adding, "It's pensions regulations is consistent with our occupational pensions recommendations." Askey said she could not say where Israel fell short of requirements because areas of difficulties "have not yet been identified. Israel has not yet been evaluated by the agriculture committee... We haven't had a full evaluation of labor markets. We have to look at migration issues, and employment rights… these will be evaluated as the process goes along. "The Anti-Bribery Convention is an important element that will have to be reviewed. We still have to look at bribery of foreign officials, one area that is still under discussion. These questions will have to be raised and answered along the way… We're in the process of identifying them," she said. Askey shied away from taking a stance on relations between Israel and the Palestinians, saying, "The OECD is an economic organization designed to serve as a dialogue for peer countries on the economic issues of the day. I can't imagine that progress towards peace wouldn't have a beneficial impact. But certainly from the OECD point of view, this is not our issue to address." "We certainly think this relationship between the OECD and Israel as a potential member is going to be a very dynamic and important one," Askey said. Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On said Israel planned "on doing all that is required of us so that process is efficient but also short, and ensuring that needs are answered." "This gives us an excellent opportunity to work from the business sector and the Knesset to formulate long-term policies on a range of issues," he said. "The result will be a significant improvement in the credibility of Israeli market. Israel's membership in the OECD is an unequivocal message to investors and banks who feel Israel's commitment to the most advanced international standards in economics, finances and the environment. Our joining is also a message that Israel is progressing, has a strong economy and is willing to play its part in global economy."