Israel’s economy is doing fine — better than fine, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, and the Governor of the Bank of Israel — but the real question is, how long can that last with an imminent COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic?
The answer is, no one really knows, but it seems the State of Israel is about to find out.
Netanyahu chaired a follow-up discussion on Thursday on preparations for dealing with the economic implications of the growing coronavirus epidemic.
Israel’s Finance, Industry and Economic Ministers participated in the meeting along with the governor of the Bank of Israel, the head of the National Security Council and the director-generals of the various ministries.
“In light of the guidelines that we issued yesterday from the staff that is dealing with the coronavirus, I request that you all follow the instructions that were issued by the Health Ministry,” Netanyahu said, adding he was not happy with a popular sports team that chose to violate those instructions — thus endangering the health of thousands in the pursuit of economic gain.
“While I greatly appreciate the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team, I condemn the fact that they did not follow the instructions and violated them. We are thus putting many citizens at risk of infection,” Netanyahu said.
“Honor the instructions.”
The prime minister began the briefing with what he called “the good news,” saying that the Israeli economy is in good, and even “very good” shape. ”
We are starting this crisis with a very strong economy. Of course, this is true regarding almost all western countries,” he said.
“The not-good news is that nobody knows how this epidemic will spread, where it will go and the economic price that it will exact. Therefore, we are prepared for what has already happened and for what could happen,” Netanyahu added.
The first step announced by the prime minister was the establishment of an “emergency cash flow assistance fund” to begin on Sunday for businesses that are deemed essential for the functioning of the economy.
“The next step will be that as the crisis develops, the Finance Ministry – in coordination with the Bank of Israel – will propose measures for cash flow assistance for businesses in distress due to the crisis,” he said.
“I think that we are dealing with this crisis vis-à-vis both health and the economy in the best way,” Netanyahu added.
“However, this is not to say that we do not face major challenges. On this issue as well, I ask that companies, businessmen and women, and business owners act in coordination with government ministries, follow instructions and be prepared.”