OECD: Israel Needs to Buckle Down and Make Changes to Join

Israel still has to make some changes, including passing legislation, before it is fully accepted into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

OECD deputy secretary general Thelma Askey said in a press conference in Jerusalem yesterday that Israeli standards in the realms of finance, environment, labor, agriculture, intellectual property and science had to be improved.

On May 16, 2007, the OECD decided to accept Israel as a non-member economy under assessment, joining Chile, Russia, Slovenia and Estonia of the same status.

Talks in Jerusalem began yesterday with the OECD directorship over the steps Israel will need to take over the coming months to meet OECD acceptance standards. The process is expected to continue for about a year.

Askey said the economic performance of the five countries under assessment was currently being reviewed. Israel, she said, has already adopted many of the organization's requirements in recent years, but the organization's specialists have not yet studied some of the areas in question, such as agriculture.

The OECD said it is seeking a quick and efficient review process.

The OECD delegation includes eight senior officers of the organization, headed by the deputy director general. The delegation includes experts on such areas as taxation, administration and environmental protection.

The OECD delegation specialists will meet with Finance Minister Roni Bar-On, Treasury Director General Yora Ariav, Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer and other leaders in the Israeli economy.

The OECD, one of the most prestigious economic organizations in the world, has 30 member states. Askey refused yesterday to say how long it would take for Israel to be accepted as a full-fledged member of the organization, but said that the last time new nation members had been accepted 12 years ago, the process had taken two years.

During the news conference, Finance Minister Roni Bar-On said the OECD directorship's visit was the first in a series by delegations monitoring progress in Israel.

Bar-On said the government, the business sector and the Knesset must all do their utmost to meet OECD requirements as quickly as possible.

The government has established a interministerial steering committee headed by Oded Bruck, director of the treasury's International Affairs Department, and 15 subcommittees that will work with the OECD.

Bar-On noted that the process of accession into the OECD is now beginning, after an excellent report on the Israeli economy published by the International Monetary Fund, and after the ratings firm Standard & Poors raised Israel's rating last November. Israel's inclusion in the OECD, he said, sends a clear message to international and local markets, placing Israel on the front line with leading economies of the world.

Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer said inclusion of Israel in one of the most important economic organizations in the world would provide the government with an incentive to continue implementing important economic reforms. Israel will receive some practical benefits from its inclusion in the organization, including attracting investment to Israel and improved credit rating.

Fischer expressed the hope that the OECD acceptance process would be very quick.

Bruck said yesterday that preparations for Israel's acceptance in the OECD had created an opportunity to formulate long-term policies on a variety of issues, and for cooperation between government ministries, authorities and bodies in the business sector.