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July 23, 2014 / 25 Tammuz, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘economy’

Israel to Vacate ‘All’ IDF Bases in Central Region

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Israel plans to vacate all its bases in the central region in the coming months, according to Harel Locker, director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, who has been tasked with the goal in order to streamline the military system.

Locker made the statement at Tuesday’s Globes-BDO Ziv Haft Capital Market Conference, saying budget cuts for the defense establishment had forced the move.

Last week the IDF warned it was halting air force training and non-active flights, as well as all non-active training programs for career and reserve personnel due to the budget cuts imposed by Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid.) The drastic measures came following the ministry’s refusal to infuse additional funds into defense coffers which had already been approved in a special vote by the Cabinet in October. The squabble over funds comes at a time when a new unity government between the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority and the Hamas terrorist organization has been re-established under the PLO in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, and terrorism against Israel is on the rise on both sides of the 1949 Armistice line (also known as the “Green Line” or “pre-1967″ line.)

“All of the land on which IDF bases between Haifa and Be’er Sheva” are located would be up for sale, Locker said – effectively raising money for defense through the capital markets rather than earmarking funds in the state budget.

“This sort of government investment will contribute to economic activity in the market. It will also free up land for more than 100,000 housing units in high-demand areas in central Israel,” he noted.

In addition, Locker claimed the move towards the northern and southern periphery would boost the economy in those areas. “Tens of thousands of career officers and soldiers will work, live, buy and enrich” those regions, he claimed.

However, so far the move by the air force to the periphery doesn’t seem to have done much other than create havoc on roads in the south that were never built to accommodate the increased amount of traffic. The construction project to widen and develop the area around the Nevatim air force base, meanwhile – particularly the reconstruction of Route 31 from the Shoqet Junction near Be’er Sheva to Arad – has turned the entire northeastern Negev upside down for more than a year, with little to show for it other than more vehicular accidents.

Locker said the state would fund the project through sales of the land on which the bases are now located – “the most expensive lands in high demand areas… for tens of billions of shekels.” He said he was turning to the business community gathered at the conference for extra-budgetary financing of the project – “financial institutions, banks and other entities.” He added that he hoped to complete the process “within a few weeks.”

Killing Cash

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

The Israeli government hopes to put the kabash on cash transactions, starting with a plan that places a ceiling on the amounts starting in fiscal 2015 budget.

The director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, Harel Locker told journalists in a briefing at the beginning of this week the government plans to limit cash transactions between businesses to NIS 5,000 after a one-year period, with the initial phase to begin at just NIS 7,500. Private citizens will be allowed cash transactions of up to NIS 15,000. But if the legislation goes through, the use of checks will also be restricted.

The initiative is aimed at ending the “black economy” that operates in much of the country, Locker explained, adding that  money laundering has risen over the past two years. He pointed to some three million cash transactions, each of which was more than NIS 5,000, that totaled some NIS 273 billion since 2012, as proof that things have to change.

The government, said Locker, has instead decided to take a leaf from the American notebook and is recommending that banks issue debit cards, rather than the VISA and MasterCard credit cards they currently use.

Most Israelis do not carry out transactions for more than NIS 5,000, Locker contended, thus he said it is expected the new plan will not cause difficulties for most of the population.

Nice and tidy — but that may not be the case: newlyweds who are buying furniture and other necessities for new homes often make their purchases with the cash gifts they receive at their wedding. Those shopping sprees are seldom carried out for less than NIS 10,000 and often involve the use of cash for extra bonus points or discount savings.

Other special events and holiday sales also often involve cash purchases as well – a fact the government seems not to be taking into account. Although Locker said he expects approval of the new law by the end of 2014, it is likely there will be more than a few bumps along the way – probably after his colleagues’ spouses find they find they can no longer go shopping without the government getting in the way.

But mostly, this is about too much government intrusion into the private lives and transactions of its citizens, by a government which wants to, invasively, be able to more easily track its citizens down to the smallest detail.

What’s next? Our biometric data on file with the government?

 

Stanley Fischer Confirmed as US Fed’s No. 2

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Former Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer is back in the United States.

Fischer has just been confirmed by the U.S. Senate Banking Committee to become the Vice Chairman of the powerful Federal Reserve Board, serving as the Fed’s number 2 after Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen.

The unanimous vote came Tuesday along with approvals for the appointment of Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, Lael Brainard, and Fed Governor Jerome Powell, for another term.

Fischer served as the Governor of the Bank of Israel from May 2005 until June 2013.

He came to Israel from his position as Vice Chairman of Citigroup, and President of Citigroup International.

Fischer also served as First Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, and Vice President, Development Economics and Chief Economist at the World Bank.

He was born in Zambia in 1943, received his Bachelor of Science degree in Economics at the London School of Economics and his PhD in economics at MIT.  Fischer held various positions as a professor, including one as a visiting professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Intel’s Multi-Billion Dollar Upgrade to Kiryat Gat Plant

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

The Intel Corporation has announced a multi-billion dollar upgrade to its plant in Kiryat Gat.

The investment plan, worth approximately $5-6 billion, includes a deal between the company and the state that includes a government grant to the firm of some NIS 750 million ($216,706,500).

The grant comes in return for a commitment to invest five percent of the funds into the Israeli economy, according to an announcement by an Intel statement.

“This investment plan is the result of the process we’ve been working on for several years,” commented Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

“Israel is the focus of global technology and the investment generates profits, both for investors and for the citizens of the State of Israel. I call on other international companies to increase their investment in Israel, and those who have not yet taken advantage of the benefits offered by the Israeli economy to come and invest here,” he said.

Economics Minister Naftali Bennett, chairman of the Bayit Yehudi party, called the announcement “the best gift we could ask for, for Israel’s 66th Independence Day.”

Bennett Slashes Import Duties on Dairy Products

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Custom duties on imported butter, yogurt and other dairy products will be drastically slashed in a move by Economy Minister Naftali Bennett to increase competition and lower prices.

Import taxes on some dairy prices account for as much as 100 percent of the final cost, according to Bennett, who also is chairman of the Jewish Home party. He said he expects importer to pass on the savings to customers.

Ironically, it was Bennett’s “odd couple” ally Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party, who capitalized on the “cottage cheese” protests of two years ago to draw widespread support for his party in the last Knesset elections.

Lapid Puts Cheeses under Price Control; Consumers Say ‘So What?’

Monday, December 30th, 2013

Finance Minister Yair Lapid called a press conference to announce great news for consumers – soft white cheese and whipped cream now will be under price control.

Lapid’s move is a belated populist reply to the :”cottage cheese” protests of three summers ago, but Monday’s publicity stunt did not make an immediate positive impression on Israelis.

The Israeli consumer has woken up the past several years and no longer is so dumb.

Placing cottage cheese under price control is like “giving aspirin to a cancer patient,” said Itzik Alrov, who founded the Israeli Consumers Organization.

He said it makes more sense to break up the monopolies that control the food market, For example, Tnuva, Strauss and Tara hold 90 percent of the white cheese market.

Lapid said that an accountant hired by the government examined the market and discovered what Israelis have known for years – that Tnuva’s profits on soft white cheese and whipped cream is “exceptional and unreasonable.”

Lapid’s price controls will reduce the price on “5 percent” soft white cheese by approximately 38 percent from the current price of 6.54 shekels to approximately 5.23 shekels.

During the “cottage cheese protests,” a public boycott forced the price down to 5 shekels.

“The markets in Israel are run like a Soviet system,” said Alvor.

Lapid can count on his Yesh Atid party’s gaining zero seats in the next Knesset in the next poll, and his insult to the intelligence of consumers might even cost him a couple of seats.

Was Desperate Gaza Man, Ready to Sell His Daughter, Once My Boss?

Friday, October 18th, 2013

This story happened today, Thursday, but it goes back 30 years, when this writer was a greenhorn in Israel, trying to learn the Israeli culture.

A Gaza man was reported on Thursday to be prepared to sell his six-year-old daughter because he is so desperately poor.

“Hani al-Hadidi, 33, a construction worker from Gaza’s al-Shajaiya neighborhood, says he is struggling to provide for his wife and five children,” the Bethlehem-based Ma’an News Agency reported. “No one dares to sell his children, but the hard situation we live in has forced me to make such a decision.”

The news site, closely affiliated with the Palestinian Authority, naturally followed this description of al-Hadidi’s dire state with the comment that Gaza “has been under a under a severe economic blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt since 2007.”

Now let’s go back 30 years to my greenhorn years, when I was trying to get the hang of Israeli culture after parachuting into Israel from planet America in October 1983.

By December, I was volunteering on the Jewish community of Atzmona in Gush Katif, which at that time was located a few hundred feet away from Rafiah. Even back then, Atzmona residents told me it was a drug smuggling capital.

I worked building greenhouses for a Jewish farmer named Chaim, but my foreman was Ahmed. That’s right, “Ahmed,” from Khan Yunis in central Gaza.

He had six children and told me life was good, he was making a decent living working for Chaim and that he could care less about politics.

Gaza’s few thousand Jews shopped in Khan Yunis and Gaza City for cheap vegetables and clothes. The Egged bus I took, when traveling north, rolled peacefully along the main drag through Gaza City.

Tens of thousands of Gaza Arabs worked in Gush Katif farming communities and in construction in the rest of Israel. Gaza was under Israeli control, but municipalities were run by Arabs, who – pardon the expression – never had it so good.

The unemployment rate in 1984, as seen in the chart below, was a miniscule 0.9 percent while it was four times that number for Arabs in Judea and Samaria.

I left Gush Katif in 1984 to learn more about other parts of Israel.

Three years later, an Arab in Gaza City stabbed an Israeli to death while he was shopping there. The following day, after four Arabs were killed in a traffic accident in Gaza, unfounded rumors spread the libel that Israelis had killed them as an act of revenge.

Arab blood was boiling, and the violence spun out of control, with a firebombing of an IDF patrol, mass rioting, blocked roads and tire burnings.

The Intifada was born and the unemployment rate began to rise.

In 1986, it was only 1.5 percent. By 1988, it climbed to 2.3 percent and then 3.8 percent in 1990.

Jews were thinking twice about employing Arabs because of terrorist attacks. In 1992, the jobless rate soared to 12 percent.

In the early 2000s, when Arabs were murdering Jews left and right, Arabs found themselves out of work not only in Gush Katif but also in the rest of Israel.  The unemployment rate soared to 50 percent  by 2003 and is estimated at more than 30 percent today.

Thirty years have passed since I worked for Ahmed in Khan Yunis.

I do not know Hanai al-Hadidi, the man who is ready to sell his daughter so she can eat and the family can have some income.

Maybe he is Ahmed’s son. Maybe not.

One can argue that money is not everything and that Arabs were deprived of their political rights, but the other half of the truth is that they had even less rights under Egyptian rule. The difference is that under Israeli rule, they can blame the Jews. If they had blamed Egypt, their lot would have been worse and they would not have gotten any sympathy from the anti-Zionist world, especially UNRWA, which has built up an empire than keeps more than half of Gaza’s population in bondage.

The facts are there, as they always have been there, but they are not facts that John Kerry want to see.

Is there anyone out there who can connect the dots between Ahmed and Hanai al-Hadidi?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/was-desperate-gaza-man-ready-to-sell-his-daughter-once-my-boss/2013/10/18/

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