OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria met Tuesday in Jerusalem with the Prime Minister and Finance Minister. He praised Israel for its management of the global fiscal crisis, but warned “it's not over yet.”
Gurria noted that Netanyahu has “been a champion of steadiness” though he has chosen a path that has not been the easiest, nor was it “so popular” or for that matter, “politically productive.”
Nevertheless, he said, “it is the one way in which Israel is going to make it possible to be in a position to have an even stronger social capacity to respond to the social demands which are legitimate. They are there; we know them very well at the OECD... we are familiar with these issues. We follow them carefully.
"So again, congratulations. As we say, not a lot of complacency,” he said. “A pat on the back and move on. Okay?”
Netanyahu thanked Gurria for his confidence in the Jewish State, and underscored the OECD message about the global crisis. “Not only is it not over,” the Prime Minister said, “it's far from over.”
Even so, “Israel up to now has done better than most of the OECD countries,” he pointed out, “indeed than most countries around the globe... we've done better because we maintained the right policies. We had greater growth than the OECD,” Netanyahu noted.
“We have a much lower unemployment. We added 250,000 jobs in three years.... Look at how prices are falling; and productivity will rise.
People enjoy – they have more money in their pockets. Break up cartels, break up monopolies, control government spending and don't tax yourself to a recession... that is what is reducing poverty in Israel for the first time – the greatest rates in the last decade and poverty has fallen consistently for two consecutive years. People are joining the job market and there are jobs to be had. We're helping with the increased revenues of the government to the old people who can't join the job market and who deserve our help. That's why poverty is going down.”
Despite Netanyahu's optimism, however, Steinitz added a sober word of warning in English: “It is still a very dangerous, an extremely dangerous world, that the Israeli economy despite the relative success so far following the initial blow of the crisis of 2008, 2009 – we were growing almost 5 percent in 2011... we produced double the amount of new jobs than in regular times (from April 2009 to April 2012). But we got a very clear warning from Angel Gurria that this global economic war is still out there, that the world is still extremely dangerous, especially following the events and the problems in Europe and therefore the main mission of defending the little Israeli economy and its citizens, from the fate of other countries... this is still the main issue, this is still the main priority.”
In Hebrew, Steinitz added, “We received a very severe warning that the global crisis has not only not disappeared, but there is a very real danger that it will grow stronger and that the threat to our national economy and to the citizens of Israel still exists.... If we do not maintain budgetary responsibility – he repeated this over and over again – if you do not maintain budgetary responsibility... you will endanger Israel's economy and its citizens.”