World Bank to Raise Billions in Its First-ever Shekel Bonds Offering

The 20-year bonds will be denominated in shekels, and will not be linked to the consumer price index

SINGAPORE ? For the first time in history, the World Bank means to raise money in Israel.

Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer met yesterday with senior officials of  the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank's business arm, to discuss their request to issue bonds in Israel. The proceeds would be used to finance the World Bank's activities around the world.

The World Bank is not a regular bank: it exists to provide financial and technical assistance to developing countries. It consists of two development institutions jointly owned by the 184 member countries: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the .

Fischer met with the bank officials in Singapore, where the International Monetary Fund is holding a conference.

This is the first time that the bank's private sector arm plans on rasing funds in Israel.

The 20-year bonds will be denominated in shekels, and will not be linked to the consumer price index. The IFC will convert the shekel proceeds to dollars for use around the world.

The initial bond issue is planned for between half a billion to 1 billion dollars. The interest rate will be quite low as the bonds carry as blue-chip AAA rating.

The issue is considered a vote of confidence in the stability of the Israeli economy, and will help to develop the local bond market in light of the increased supply of bonds - and from such a respected institution.

Yesterday Fischer had the honor of opening the conference's seminar program. It was the first time an Israeli representative had been given such an important honor.

He spoke and moderated the first seminar on the reforms needed in the Chinese and Indian economies. Discussions of the two giants and their affects on the world economy are a major focus of the entire conference.

Fischer will participate in a number of other seminars, as well as meet with analysts from the international ratings agencies.

He is expected to emphasize the enormous stability and strength of the Israeli economy. Despite a series of crises since Benjamin Netanyahu's resignation from the post of finance minister - Sharon's illness, Israeli elections, the rise of Hamas, and the big shock of the war in Lebanon - the financial markets in Israel suffered a shock, but quickly returned to stability, explained Fisher.

Fischer is expected to tell analysts that everything depends on the budget, which is the best that can be achieved under the present circumstances; and if it is passed without changes then Israeli economic stability will be maintained.