A stream of bad economic data has been released in Jerusalem in the past few days. GDP shrank by 0.5% in 4Q08. 18% fewer tourist nights were recorded in January 09 compared to 12 months previously. Intel announced a sharp drop in exports.
The Economist Intelligence Unit recently updated its predictions for 2009. The current forecast highlights a 1.9% real drop in global GDP. Taking the USA as an example, it explained that:
The US economy is in freefall. The 3.8% contraction in fourth-quarter GDP was the worst showing since the opening months of 1982, when the economy contracted by more than 6%. Business spending dropped by a stunning 19.1% at an annual rate in the three months to December.
So Israel is better placed? Well, I have long argued that Israel entered the recession with numerous structural positives, which are still true today. Naturally, that does not make the country immune, especially when the political system is neutered due to post-election coalition gamesmanship.
There is one stunning major bonus, clearly identifiable on the horizon. About a month ago, commercial quantities of gas were discovered in the Tamar field just off Israel’s coastline. This week, two hugely important pieces of information were released to the press.
First, it is very likely that the find is larger than initially thought. Second, spurred on by the American partner, Noble, the gas will brought to the market within 3 years, and not 5 as originally thought.
The knock on effect here – increased revenue for the treasury, employment, export possibilities, etc – will have a substantial and positive effect on the Israeli economy.
The Economist concluded its report with a “subdued outlook for the global economy in 2011- 2013″. Israel has a chance to be a special exception to that forecast.