Israel’s economy concocts a bitter recipe

Less than three weeks ago, the OECD published a healthy review on the Israeli economy – 3% growth running through to the end of 2014. This outperforms many other countries in the organisation. So, why is the Israeli media full of depressing financial reports? The answer lies in a mixture of issues that have come together at once.

First, it has been known for around six months that tax revenues has not been hitting targets set. However measured, the gap stretches to billions of dollars. Raising VAT has helped, but not enough. So, the government merely changed the proposed fiscal deficit from 2% to 3% of GDP.

Clever political accounting maybe, but now 3% looks like breaching the 4% mark. The defense budget was never fully covered from the outset of 2012. The activities over Gaza last month have added around half a billion dollars in extra bills – reservists, ammunition, etc. And that very military campaign has resulted in a severe drop in tax revenues from businesses in the south of the country. To give one piece of anecdotal evidence – one of my clients had a prospective customer cancel on him at the last moment because his income from the south had evaporated.

The politicians have another problem to deal with – themselves. They have called a general election for the 22nd January. That means that the government is trying to devolve all sensitive issues until after that date. For example, the prices of many milk products, staple items for much of the public, are regulated. Changing an earlier announcement, they will only rise by 5% at the end of January. Bread will go up by 4% in early February. Electricity charges will jump by 10% in April, once many consumers have finished heating their homes for the winter.

Again, maybe a nifty political tactic, but what about the public coffers? The treasury will have to subsidise some of the differed costs. And that will bring us back to the story of the worsening fiscal deficit. It all makes for a nasty and bitter recipe of problems.

The OECD was fundamentally correct. Economically, the country has much to look forward to. For example, by late 2014, Israel’s new-found gas reserves will start to come on tap. These will ensure cheaper gas for consumers. Relatively expensive imports will be eliminated, thus improving Israel’s standing vis-a-vis overseas creditors. And there will be extra tax revenues available to finace public projects. A great main course for the mouths of the whole country.

Until then, Israelis deserve to be served a better first course by its leaders. Specifically at the time of elections, what is required is responsible financial measures rather than verbal spin.

Explore posts in the same categories: Business, Israel

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2 Comments on “Israel’s economy concocts a bitter recipe”

  1. […] that’s just the point. The Israeli economy is in urgent need of leadership and direction, but none is forthcoming. Everything is being delayed until after the polls have […]

  2. […] that’s just the point. The Israeli economy is in urgent need of leadership and direction, but none is forthcoming. Everything is being delayed until after the polls have […]

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