Netanyahu and Fischer (file)
Netanyahu and Fischer (file)Israel news photo: Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu received the Bank of Israel 2009 Annual Report on Wednesday from BoI Governor Stanley Fischer, who said that the 2009 report describes “a more successful year than we initially expected.” The growth forecast for 2010 is 0.7% higher than 2009's, Fischer added.

“The last quarter of 2009 was marked by 4.9% growth in GDP,” Netanyahu noted, “a very respectable figure and almost the highest among developed countries.”

He congratulated Fischer for accepting a second five-year term as BoI governor after the government approved this last week. “You make growth forecasts while I set growth targets,” he told Fischer. “We will continue to move forward with reforms so that growth will be higher than 0.7%.  We will continue to advance the economy so that the next report is even better."

According to the BoI report for 2009, “Israel's economy came through the global economic crisis – the  worst since the 1930s – relatively well. Following the contraction of economic activity at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009, the economy started to recover in the second quarter of the year.”

The report's chapter on the economy and growth noted that:

“GDP grew by 0.7 percent in 2009, the result of a 1.5 percent decline in the first half of the year and 3.3 percent growth in the second half. The rate of unemployment reached 7.9 percent around the middle of the year, and fell to 7.3 percent by the end of the year.

“Exports shrank by 12.5 percent, and imports by 14 percent, in line with the drop in world trade. The terms of trade improved, leading to an increase in the surplus on the current account to $7.2 billion, and mitigated the effect of the global crisis on national income and domestic demand.

“Private consumption recovered rapidly, and by the end of 2009 it surpassed its pre-crisis level, contrary to the development in many other advanced economies.

“The crisis had a limited effect on Israel's financial system, more moderate than its impact on the advanced economies, and the main financial institutions remained stable. The profitability and the capital ratio of the banking system improved during the year. The factors contributing to the milder effect included a conservative financial system, and in particular a conservative and closely supervised banking system, a balanced housing market, and a successful economic policy.

“Inflation during 2009 was 3.9 percent, higher than the target inflation range and higher than the inflation environment in the advanced economies, due mainly to the rapid rise of housing prices and the increase in water prices and VAT by the government.”

The BoI report estimated that Israel’s growth rate in the next few years will be heavily influenced by the rate of recovery of the global economy.