Netanyahu: Cartels and Monopolies Are Choking Competition in Israel

In a taped address to an economic conference in Eilat, prime minister stresses need to encourage entrepreneurship.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday called cartels and monopolies the main cause of the lack of competitiveness in the Israeli economy. He was addressing, in a pre-taped speech, the Israel Democracy Institute's Eli Hurvitz Conference on Economy and Society, in Eilat.

Netanyahu said that cartels had joined forces with petty officials and used laws and bureaucracy to stifle competition. He said his government is pushing the so-called economic concentration bill through the Knesset in order to increase competition.

The prime minister said he supports privatization when it increases and noted that several years ago, before the 2011 social protests, he appointed a committee to examine the issue of economic competitiveness.

The primary factor in the lack of competition in Israel is economic concentration fostered by cartels or the monopolistic behavior of wealthy individuals, Netanyahu said. He told the conference, formerly known as the Caesarea Economic Policy Planning Forum, "I believe in entrepreneurs but in Israel, as in every country, cartels and monopolies have taken root. Cartel companies have taken over a large share [of the economy] and there is no oxygen for others.

Technological development, fiscal responsibility and expanding trade with foreign markets, particularly China, are also engines for economic growth, Netanyahu said.

He said the government had spent NIS 27 billion to unify the country's roads and railroad into a single transportation network. That system, Netanyahu said, will help the government to leverage the high cost of housing in central Israel in order to expand and develop 's Gush Dan region to foster population growth and development in outlying cities such as Afula, Safed and Be'er Sheva.

Netanyahu also stressed the strategic aspect infrastructure development, citing the example of the planned railroad from the Eilat port to the Ashdod port.

Above all, we want to build an alternative to the closure of the Suez Canal by establishing a land bridge, he said. There are many countries, China foremost among them, that are interested in the project. He added that although the project has been called uneconomical it would allow Israel to leverage its advantages and develop the Arava Desert, in the south.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an image from his pre-taped address to the Eli Hurvitz Conference on Economy and Society, November 6, 2013.

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