Has Fischer got it right on the Israeli economy?

Prof Stanley Fischer is well into his second term as governor of the Bank of Israel. A highly experienced and respected international banker, who has the ear of Ben Bernanke in America, he has rightly taken a lot of credit for guiding Israel through the 2008 credit crunch.

Most predictions leave economic growth for 2011 around 4.7% in the Holy Land. G7 eat your heart out.

Is there a looming “but”?

Most of this surge took place in the first quarter (7.2%). Private consumption for the second half of 2011 is almost certainly in the negative sector. Exports in the third quarter collapsed by 16.9% compared to the same period last year. And nobody doubts that the Euro blues have yet to fully impact on future orders or foreign direct investment.

In the words of leading financial commentator, Avi Temkin:

The word “concern” can describe most thoroughly Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer’s mood, at least according to what he said at a press conference on Tuesday. In the meantime, Fischer is not expressing more than concern. His essential message can be reduced to a warning not to increase expenditures and not to let the deficit expand beyond what stems from slowed growth.

What Temkin is saying is that Fischer believes that Israel can get through any global downturn or recession. Growth could stick at a very respectable 3% in 2012. There is one big proviso – politicians do not force the mandarins at the Finance Ministry to cave on to populist measures. Social protest movements, army generals and even strikers may have a point, but not all changes can be made in one shot.

Where to now? The economic world is in a period of instability. In such an era, those with clear heads and a vision are a rare breed but definitely the order for the day. Our man Stan fits the bill. I just hope he continues to meet the political needs of the Prime Minister.

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