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May 30, 2016 / 22 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘economy’

In New US – PA Talks on Recovering Debt Ridden Economy, Fingers Point at Israel

Saturday, May 21st, 2016

Palestinian Authority Economy Minister Abeer Odeh and US Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Charles Rivkin will meet Sunday in Ramallah for talks on developing the PA’s economy. At this point, the PA simply cannot pay its bills and is facing serious problems paying its government employees, from teachers to security forces. According to Trading Economics, in 2014 the PA recorded a Government Debt to GDP rate of 17.30% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. Government Debt to GDP in the PA has averaged 18.92% from 1995 until 2014, reaching an all time high of 26.36% in 2007 and a record low of 2.93% in 1995.

The economies of the PA and Gaza strongly depend on their relationship with Israel, so that when the Israelis feel safe to permit documented (and many undocumented) Arab workers into their country, the Arab economy improves. And when there’s a war or an intifada, the Arabs go without.

The Palestine Monetary Authority (PMA) most recent report, from 2014, shows high and rising levels of unemployment, which continued to be one of the main challenges to the economy. In 2014, it rose to 26.9%, compared to 23.4% in 2013. A main contributor was an exceptionally expanding rate in Gaza Strip, where unemployment reached 43.9%, compared to 32.6 percent in 2013, while the same rate declined in the PA from 18.6% to 17.7% during the same period. This rise in unemployment did not stop nominal daily wages from rising across different regions. Yet contradictory inflation trends have created discrepancies in real wage growth, as while real average daily wage for workers in the PA, and Israel and the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria improved by 0.9% and 5.6% respectively, real wages in Gaza declined by 1.5% during 2014.

The PA Arabs’ dependence of Israel was made all too clear this past winter, when The Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) announced the PA and individual Arab municipalities have racked up a debt of close to half a billion dollars which the company could no longer absorb. The debt was split about $400 million to $80 million between the PA and the cities respectively.

In April, the IEC reached a temporary agreement with the PA to put an end to the temporary power cuts it had been imposing on a succession of municipalities, in exchange for paying off a small portion of the overall debt. Meanwhile, the Arab-run Jerusalem District Electricity Company, which owes the IEC $371 million out of the debt, sued the IEC in Israel’s High Court last April, saying the IEC’s behavior constituted “collective and disproportionate punishment” and showed “blatant and harmful disregard for a public that pays its electricity bills regularly.” It also suggested the IEC’s power cuts compromised basic consumer rights to access an essential resource.

“I don’t know of any company that would agree to do nothing about a 1.74 billion shekel ($450 million) debt owed by another company,” IEC chairman Yiftah Ron Tal said at the time. “We weren’t left with any choice. We’re limiting electricity in a proportionate way.”

But the High Court of Justice paid no attention to the complaints of the Israeli CEO, and issued an interim injunction on prohibiting service cuts to the eastern Jerusalem Arab power company.

IEC responded to the ruling with an angry statement: “The Israel Electric Corporation respects the High Court ruling but demands the issue over the growing debts of JDECO which reach 1.4 billion shekel ($360 million) be resolved quickly. JDECO debts continue to grow to an astronomic figure; like any other business, it is the legitimate right and the responsibility of IEC to take the necessary measures to resolve a problematic debt which has been a burden for all Israeli electricity consumers.”

Israel’s ambivalence about collecting the debt from the Arabs in both Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem and Gaza has produced a reluctant and ineffective method of getting the money from the taxes and VAT Israel collects on Arab wages and products. As a result, Israel was rebuked this month by the World Bank for ruining the PA economy by, essentially, withholding money Israel is rightfully due.

The new World Bank report estimates that the Palestinian Authority is losing $285 million in revenues annually under the current economic arrangements with the Government of Israel. The report states that these revenues could significantly ease the Authority’s fiscal stress. As was to be expected, there is no mention in the condemning report of the half billion dollars in free power Israel has poured into the PA.

“If revenue losses are mitigated, this can reduce the 2016 fiscal deficit to below $1 billion, and narrow the expected financing gap by more than 50 percent,” Steen Lau Jorgensen, World Bank Country Director for West Bank and Gaza said in a press statement.

In other words, if only Israel agreed to take the half billion dollars from Israeli power consumers and let the PA Arabs continue to receive free electricity, an Arab economic miracle would be just a matter of time.

The report also cites irregularities on Israel’s part in conducting revenues clearance, which have not been systematically implemented. The revenue sharing arrangements, outlined by the 1994 Paris Protocol, through which the Government of Israel collects VAT, import taxes and other revenues on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, and shares them on a monthly basis, have not been systematically implemented.

The majority of the estimated fiscal loss results from tax leakages on bilateral trade with Israel, and undervaluation of PA imports from third countries. In other words, the Israelis have been running a messy tax and payment system, as well as a messy debt collection system.

JNi.Media

Israel’s BIG Shopping Centers to Develop Online Mall for E-Shoppers

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

The owners of the BIG Shopping Centers have seen the future and it is online, apparently – at least, according to corporate vice president Hay Galis.

“We intend to stand on the shoulders of giants and we believe in Israel we can be as strong as they are, as we offer a physical, financial and marketable platform that will be a significant player in e-commerce,” Galis told the Globes business news site.

BIG announced its new online shopping platform will be called BIG+ and will offer the various items available at its current malls. However, it will also offer international brands not currently sold to Israeli consumers.

The virtual mall expects to launch at the start of next year, and will make available a myriad selection of brands and retailers both from Israel and abroad.

Hana Levi Julian

Israeli Banks Post Strong Figures for 2015

Monday, February 29th, 2016

Israel’s two largest banks posted a strong year for 2015.

Bank Hapoalim noted its annual revenue rose 2.4 percent last year to NIS 14.36 billion. Net profits rose 13.6 percent to NIS 3.08 billion, according to Globes.

Credit to the public rose 5.8 percent to NIS 278.49 billion and deposits from the public rose 8.2 percent to NIS 321.72 billion.

Bank Leumi’s annual non-interest revenue rose to NIS 6.29 billion in 2015 from NIS 5.14 billion in 2014, although net interest revenue fell to NIS 7.11 billion, from NIS 7.36 billion a year earlier.

Net profit jumped to NIS 2.83 billion for 2015, compared with NIS 1.4 billion in 2014.

Credit to the public grew 3.5 percent to NIS 261.4 billion and deposits from the public rose 8.3 percent to NIS 328.7 billion.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Gas Prices Dropping at Week’s End

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

Drivers are about to get another bonus at the gas pumps in Israel.

For those who can wait until midnight Thursday to Friday, the price of gasoline will hit a new low.

That’s when the new price will be NIS 5.78 per liter for 95 octane gas on January 1, at most self-service stations.

Full-service gas pumps will cost about 20 agorot more – but it is still 20 agorot less than the current price.

The continued downward spiral in worldwide prices has brought gas prices to their lowest levels in six and a half years.

Hana Levi Julian

Finance Minister Raises Number of Customs-Free Items

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon has signed an order to exempt more food products and production items from customs fees upon their arrival in Israel.

In addition, existing exemptions have been extended, new exemptions have been added, and the “customs-free” imports quota has been expanded.

The moves are designed to ease future costs for Israeli business owners and increase their ability to compete in the international marketplace.

The Finance Ministry is beefing up efforts to maintain a healthy economy despite Israel’s somewhat sluggish growth rate earlier in the year.

Hana Levi Julian

Litzman Pressures Reluctant Hospitals to Shorten Wait for MRI Scans

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

At least two medical centers in Israel are locked in a power struggle with the Health Ministry over funding support for MRI procedures.

The number of MRI exams carried out in the afternoon and evening hours was seriously reduced beginning December 1 by the Clalit HMO at Beilinson Medical Center in Petach Tikvah and Be’er Sheva’s Sorokah Medical Center, Galei Tzahal Army Radio reported Tuesday.

This, despite a reform announced by Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman that was supposed to sharply cut the long wait for such procedures.

Because the MRI machine-hours have been slashed in the afternoon and evening hours at the two hospitals, many clinics have been unable to schedule patients for MRI exams as well.

Officials blamed a lack of state funding was responsible for the cut in services.

“Unfortunately we ran out of funds to operate the second shift, so we were forced to reduce our services by 30 percent,” said a spokesperson for Beilinson Medical Center.

“Operating the MRI in afternoon and evening hours is only possible with funding from the state,” said Soroka Medical Center. “The budget just could not stretch far enough, and therefore our services were reduced.”

The Ministry of Health has responded that the “availability and quality of services in the health basket are dependent upon the financial situation of the specific health fund; the ministry will review the matter with the director-general.”

However, Litzman added bluntly that if the hospitals did not cooperate and shorten the wait for MRI exams, he would “not hesitate to cancel their arrangements of choice.”

Such arrangements refer to agreements between the HMOs and hospitals to determine which medical center receives patients for which particular treatment.

Such a decision can exert major influence on an institution’s economic development.

Bottom line: if the hospitals don’t step up and cooperate, the health ministry is not likely to provide them with the support they need for further growth — at least, as long as Ya’acov Litzman remains health minister.

Hana Levi Julian

Israel’s Balance of Payments Q3 / 2015: $3.8 Billion Surplus

Monday, December 14th, 2015

(JNi.media) According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, Israel’s balance of payments for the third quarter of 2015 (July – September) looked positive, considering the current economic environment.

The data on the current account of Israel are a summary of the country’s balance of payments conducted by the Central Bureau of Statistics at the end of the third quarter of 2015. The summary includes transactions of Israeli residents with foreign entities in four different accounts: the account of goods (exports imports), the services account (Exports Imports), the account of primary income (income from financial investments and wages per employee), and secondary income (current transfers of funds).

The current account surplus totaled $3.8 billion, following a surplus of $3.4 billion in the previous quarter.

The balance of goods and services amounted to a surplus of $2.5 billion, following a surplus of $1.8 billion in the previous quarter.

The Imports of goods and services decreased by 3.5% from the previous quarter to $20 billion.

The Exports of goods and services remained at a level similar to that of the previous quarter, totaling $22.5 billion.

Israeli residents’ investments in foreign tradable securities decreased by $100 million following continued increases since 2012.

Investments by foreign residents in negotiable Israeli securities decreased by $2.1 billion in the first three quarters of 2015, after rising by $6.7 billion in the three preceding quarters.

In the net external debt, the excess of assets over liabilities amounted to about $108 billion, compared with $92 billion in the same quarter the year before.

Current-account-by-components

JNi.Media

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