IMF deliberates US debt crisis

Bank Hapoalim: World is interested in Israel’s gas sector.

Bank customer hapoalim370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Bank customer hapoalim370
(photo credit: REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – Talks in Washington last week at the International Monetary Fund annual conference of bankers and financiers were relaxed and optimistic, except for one overwhelming concern: Washington itself.
At a breakfast held by Bank Hapoalim at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown, bank leaders expressed frustration with the political impasse that may soon threaten America’s ability to pay its bills. If an agreement is not reached, the US will be without the authority to borrow as of October 17.
“In today’s market, people are looking for yield and are looking for stability, and Israel, really, is a mixture of both,” Bank Hapoalim chairman Yair Seroussi told The Jerusalem Post. “The importance now of stability within the US system is more important than ever, and everybody is looking now at the US.”
The US risks sending a message of uncertainty with the protracted crisis, he said.
Israel’s growth rate of 3.3 percent to 3.5% is relatively high for today’s environment, when counting Israel among developed countries.
The US growth rate has ticked up beyond 2% since the 2008 recession, a sign of measurable progress for its trading partners that are concerned by the crisis.
In his conversations at the IMF, Seroussi said a prominent issue of interest was Israel’s anticipated gas projects, following the discovery of large deposits of oil and gas off its coast in 2011.
“It’s hard for me to explain the strategic importance for a country like Israel, which is isolated,” he said. “All of a sudden we are completely energy independent. We do not depend on anyone anymore.”
Forty percent of Israel’s gas needs have historically been met by Egypt. Now, for the first time, the interim Egyptian government is in talks with private American and Israeli firms to possibly buy Israeli gas, as are the governments of Turkey and Cyprus.
At the breakfast, the Israeli bankers told their global counterparts Israel continues to invest a higher percentage of its GDP proportionally in research and development than any other country in the world.
Among the guests at the conference were finance leaders from Chile, Canada, New York, Japan and Istanbul.
Bank Hapoalim is the largest bank in Israel, and last week it was selected as Israel’s best bank for 2013 by Global Finance magazine.