How Israel is trying to beat the recession

 A few days ago, the Israeli treasury in Jerusalem announced that it had issued a debt package in the USA worth US$1.5 billion at 5.2%. Ever since, it is a topic that keeps coming up in discussions, and with no small amount of pride.

How did Israel succeed? At a time when Gordon Brown and other world leaders doggy paddle from one piece of bad economic news to another, it is worth taking a few moments to see what it is happening with finances of the Holy Land.

Yesterday in Jerusalem, I heard Prime Minister designate, Netanyahu, state that he thinks “we can outperform the global economy”. Fighting words, and as Finance Minister some years ago he did launch the country on a path of sustained growth of 5% annually for 5-6 years.

But it needs more than bold character.

You ask senior economists like Barry Topf, head of the Market Operations dept at the Bank of Israel. He notes how Israel has a real opportunity to come out of the recession in good shape. Strong, positive fundamentals + a solid financial position + excellent micro factors like entrepreneurial skills – Israel possesses those skill-sets, and when combined together they point to a positive course.

As Topf noted in a presentation, Israel is the only country in the EMEA region which does not have a current account deficit. That is a significant and positive stat that excites analysts!

A few days ago, the Bank of Israel released its summary of Israel’s International Investment position for the end of 2008. For the first time in a decade, Israel assets abroad now exceed liabilities, and the surplus approaches the US$ 7 billion mark.

No wonder there is a confidence in the capital markets to lend Israel money. And it is no surprise that for all the rising unemployment and political uncertainty in the country, there is genuine ground for cautious optimism.

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