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Imports, excluding diamonds, hit a life high in 2007, climbing 16.9% to $48.5 billion. According to Tax Authority data released on Monday, state revenues from the import of fuel surged 300% to NIS 1 billion after the sharp rise in fuel prices.

There was a huge increase in imports of consumer products after very moderate increases over the two previous years. The center of action was in private vehicles, where imports rose 29.5%, reflecting imports of 185,171 vehicles. The increase had been just 2% in 2006.

The cost of car imports amounted to $2.3 billion - 41% more than in 2006 - and generated tax revenues of NIS 7.4 billion. The sharp rise in the cost of imports last year may be explained by sharp fluctuations in exchange rates - some of the imported cars are purchased in euros, and the cost is translated into dollars. Another cause is the increased cost of cars with added safety accessories.

Imports of vehicle replacement parts grew 24% in 2007. Imports of small commercial vehicles fell 19.3%, with the cancellation of VAT tax incentives in 2005. Imports of motorcycles, on the other hand, climbed 50.6% - 18,602 motorcycles last year compared with 12,352 in 2006.

The purchase tax on large home appliances was canceled in 2007, which helped boost imports. Imports of refrigerators were up 8%, washing machines 16.3%, driers 23.8% and dishwashers a hefty 26.2%.

Imports of entertainment electronics were up 9.5% - 513,000 televisions were brought into the country at the cost of $226 million, most of which were plasma TVs.