PM Netanyahu: According to the latest OECD report, growth is among the highest in the developed countries, unemployment is among the lowest in the world and Israel is implementing many good things according to other indices as well.
At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday, 8 December 2013):
1. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the following remarks:
“Today we welcome the Secretary General of the OECD, our friend Angel Gurria. Angel Gurria played an important role in our entry to the OECD, which I and previous finance minister, Yuval Steinitz, worked very hard to achieve, as well as governments before ours. Membership in this important organization of the world’s leading economies gives us objective criteria by which to compare the Israeli economy and Israeli society to other countries, and to find ways to improve what needs improving. I must say that in this international comparison, as we will soon hear from the OECD Secretary General, Israel is in a pretty good situation: Growth is among the highest in the developed countries, unemployment is among the lowest in the world and Israel is implementing many good things according to other indices as well, including health in which we are ranked very high.
I am also pleased that this report focuses on high-tech. I just sat with the OECD Secy.-Gen. and I told him what we are doing in the cyber field – to turn Be’er Sheva into a global cyber capital, which will enable many investors and companies from the private sector to come to Israel. I call on them to do this, they are doing it without me, but there is no doubt that this will continue and grow as part of the Israeli engine for participating in the global economy.
Alongside all the good things, we also heard about things that we need to improve, including the gaps within the State of Israel, which are wide in comparison to the world’s economies, especially the non-participation of parts of our population – the ultra-orthodox and the Arabs – which must be integrated into the Israeli labor force, and of course other things that need correcting, including in advancing our education system, in carrying out international tests. I recently spoke about this with the Education Minister, how we might continue the trend of improvement and strengthen it so that Israeli children will be equipped with the tools to compete in tomorrow’s world.
I think that all of this is helped by these reports. They are very interesting and compare us to others. We have greatly improved. In the past decade, we have overtaken most of the countries here. We made greater progress than they did and we must ensure that this trend continues in the coming decade according to all the main indicators. On closing the gaps, I would say that there will be more people who will participate and benefit from growth. This is the main thing that I would say that we need to do, but we must ensure that there will be benefits. The allocation of the benefits is also important, but it is possible only if there are benefits. Creating growth is the critical thing that we are committed to.
I would like to comment on one other thing, which is unusually severe in my opinion. I have heard about the threats of physical attacks by extremist elements in Israeli society against Christians, Christian Arabs who want to enlist in the IDF, who want to be part of the State of Israel. Against these people is an extremist group that is threatening them. We will not tolerate this; I will not tolerate this. We will use all of our tools to stop these thugs and we will allow whoever – Christian, Muslim and Druze – wants to link their fate even more to the State of Israel and wants to serve in the IDF to do so. We will protect them.”
OECD Secy.-Gen. Gurria presented the main findings of the OECD 2013 Economic Survey for Israel.
Mr. Gurria made it clear that from the survey it arises that Israel’s overall economic situation is positive in various aspects such as budgetary discipline, relatively high growth and relatively low unemployment. He noted that growth in Israel would be 3.7-3.8% this year, in comparison to a global average of 2.7%, the OECD average of 1.2% and negative growth in the Euro zone. He added that unemployment in Israel had stabilized at 6%, as opposed to the OECD average of 8%, approximately 7.2% in the US and approximately 12% in the euro zone. He positively noted the steps that the government has taken to lower the deficit and said that he believed that they will achieve their goal in 2014.
However, Mr. Gurria pointed out that it was necessary to act to increase social cohesion and to integrate into the socio-economic fabric populations such as the ultra-orthodox and Arabs.
Mr. Gurria also spoke of the need for investment in education, expansion of the labor force, reduced taxation while maintaining budgetary discipline and prudent planning vis-à-vis the use of natural gas revenues, and increased growth.
2. The Cabinet discussed the aforementioned OECD 2013 Economic Survey for Israel.
Prime Minister Netanyahu thanked OECD Secy.-Gen. Gurria and his team for the survey and made it clear that the government would continue to cooperate with the OECD and be attentive to its recommendations.
3. The Cabinet discussed cancelling the income tax increases for 2014 while maintaining fiscal balance.
4. The Cabinet discussed voluntary national service for yeshiva students.
5. The Cabinet discussed plan for advancing children’s and young people’s sports programs.