Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has clearly marked out his goal. "Let's make Israel one of the world's 10 richest countries in terms of per capita income," Netanyahu told a forum at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange yesterday. "Five out of the top 10 are small countries with less than 10 million residents, and five of them weren't on the list 10, 15 years ago. So there's no reason why Israel can't be one of the most successful countries in the world."
The way to fortune is through technology, the minister said. While at one time the richest man in the world was the Sultan of Brunei, today it's Bill Gates of Microsoft. "Know-how and technological development is the new wealth of the world. In Israel, we have the largest number of doctors and engineers. We have the potential to make this vision come true, and yet we are stuck at the level of $17,000 per capita," he said.
"What is holding up growth in Israel is not the lack of peace. There are countries in Western Eurrope that have peace, and yet are not growing. If we had peace, it would be a wonderful bonus. But the principle is that there be security, stability, gradual improvement in economic freedoms, a reduction in the regime of allocations, a reduction in taxes and the size of the bloated government sector, and a fight against the archaic monopolies. If there were peace, but on one side we had a corrupt Palestinian state and on the other a bureaucratic Israeli state where you couldn't do business, then there wouldn't be growth even with peace," he continued.
"Despite what we constantly hear, there is no contradiction between a right economy and a healthy society. That the two don't mix is mendacious. We are bringing down unemployment, lowering taxes and reducing social gaps. Because we are working in a competitive global market, competition is getting stronger and stronger, there is more freedom for consumers, workers and investors - while for government there is less. They have but one choice - reforms at an acceptable price or, after the fall, at a much higher price. Countries that have understood that have shot ahead, while the others have been left behind," he said.
"I can do a lot, but the reforms in the public field I cannot do alone. I need verbal help. Speak out. If you agree with me, I want to hear you. Today I don't hear you. Speak, and not just in your living rooms. It's time to change the record," Netanyahu concluded to a round of applause.
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