Netanyahu: 2005 Deficit May Hit 3.5%

Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was adamant in Washington yesterday that "within a year or two Israel will be a member of the OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development]." Netanyahu, in Washington for the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund, met with his counterparts of six of the G7 states. Only the Japanese finance minister didn't meet him. In meeting senior treasury officials of the American administration, Netanyahu said the government budget deficit target for next year may be raised to 3.5 percent from 3 percent, or even to 3.7 percent of gross domestic product. Israel had made certain commitments to the administration before having the $9 billion in guarantees provided. One of these commitments was to keep the budget deficit to within 3 percent of GDP in 2005. (Nehemia Strasler)