Last year was one of the best in history for the economy, and by all indications, 2008 figures to be an outstanding economic year for Israel as well.
The Central Bureau of Statistics published data for the year yesterday based on the first 11 months, and nearly all of the figures point to a growing economy - at one of the highest rates in the Western world. And unlike 2000, the year of the bubble - and the only year with a much higher economic growth, 7.5% - 2007 follows on the heels of three good years for the economy.
The Achilles heel of 2007 was unemployment figures. Just 56.5% of Israeli citizens of working age are members of the work force. In the 30 most developed countries of the world - the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries - the average participation in the work force is 10% higher.
Although unemployment dropped by 8.4% in 2006 to 7.4% last year, it remains at substantial levels. By comparison, unemployment in OECD nations in 2007 averaged just 5.4 percent. Increased employment and reduced unemployment to OECD levels will thrust Israel into a leading position in the world in terms of domestic product, and solve a large part of our poverty problems.
Israel is starting 2008 on the right foot, and the momentum is forward. The principal risks are external, such as a worsening of the security situation or weakening Western economy. Israel has taken steps in recent years to improve its position among developing markets like India, China, Russia and South America, by reducing its dependence on the U.S. and Western Europe. Even the pessimists among treasury and central bank authorities are forecasting that the economy will enjoy a brisk 4.2 growth rate in 2008, less than 2007, but more than OECD countries. Of course, it is not outside the realm of possibilities that they will be proven wrong - and that economic growth will be even higher.
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