MK Nir Barkat: Israel can be top-ten economy within a decade

Former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat is reportedly set to be appointed finance minister.

Likud MK Nir Barkat addresses a Kohelet Policy Forum event, February 12, 2020. (photo credit: MICHAL FATTAL/KOHELET POLICY FORUM)
Likud MK Nir Barkat addresses a Kohelet Policy Forum event, February 12, 2020.
MK Nir Barkat (Likud) presented his economic program on Wednesday to turn Israel into one of the 10 “strongest economies in the world” within a decade, amid speculation that the former Jerusalem mayor will succeed outgoing Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.
“Israel can and should be one of the 10 strongest economies in the world,” said Barkat, addressing an economic conference organized by the Kohelet Policy Forum. “Today, we are placed 19th according to GDP per capita, but in a decade we can be within the top 10 in economics, hi-tech and innovation.”
According to Hebrew-language media reports earlier this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to appoint Barkat as the next finance minister, replacing Kahlon after almost five years in the role. Netanyahu’s office denied the report, stating that Kahlon – who is not running for reelection – will remain finance minister until after the March 2 general election.
Barkat outlined five “critical steps” that he believes will be necessary to prepare and accelerate the economy for the future global market, based on the motto: “Entrepreneurship and not a Treasury.”
The former hi-tech entrepreneur also emphasized the need to draw a distinction between an “investment and expense,” and the understanding that Israel should turn its focus on global, rather than domestic, competition.
Required measures for accelerated economic growth, Barkat said, include reduced regulation and barriers to trade, transforming the periphery into a national engine of growth, upgrading health services, investing in national infrastructure of all types, and an expanded program of national service for all sectors of the population.
“If I had an accounting-like way of thinking, Check Point [a tech security company] probably would not have existed today – we must introduce entrepreneurship into the public sector,” Barkat said. “There are many national challenges – including security and foreign affairs – but a shift on the socioeconomic issue is what will enlarge the ‘national cake’ and complete Israel’s mantle as a powerful and strong state.”
Barkat reiterated the importance of developing Israel’s geographical and social peripheries, both as a driver of economic growth and a solution to rising property prices.
Extending a program initially developed with Harvard Business School economist Prof. Michael Porter to boost the Jerusalem economy, Barkat aims to catalyze economic growth in the periphery by harnessing the competitive advantage of different regions. While the North, South and the West Bank account for nearly 90% of the country’s territory, only 35% of the population live in those regions.
With the population expected to double within the next three decades, Barkat says a strategic decision to create demand where land is relatively cheap will provide the “right solution to deal with” the property crisis.