Jerusalem, 18 February 1999

Finance Ministry: 1999 Need Not Be Lost Economically

(Communicated by Finance Ministry Spokesman)

Finance Ministry Director-General Ben-Zion Zilberfarb said today (Thursday) 18.2.99 in a speech to Hoteliers Committee in Jerusalem that 1999 need not necessarily be lost to the Israeli economy. "In light of the approval of the State budget within its framework and the maintaining of other necessary conditions, it may become clear that 1999 will not be a lost year, but a year that will return the economy back onto the path of growth."

These other necessary conditions are a growth supporting monetary policy, guarding the wage front while signing reasonable and responsible wage agreements and diverting more budgetary resources to infrastructure investment beyond the billion shekels already transferred in the 1999 budget.

As for the tourism sector’s preparations for 2000, Zilberfarb said that it can be hoped that the rise in tourism will contribute its part to economic growth. "An additional 1.5 million tourists in 2000 could add a percentage point to economic growth. An addition of 1% in growth in the tourist sector and the realization of budget plans, structural reforms and economic initiatives that we will prepare for the next government, will enable the achievement of the "two, three, four" goals for 2000 2% reduction in unemployment, a 3% inflationary environment and 4% or more economic growth. However, we must not forget that the conditions of uncertainty at the international and local levels have considerable effects on the Israeli economy in general and the tourism sector in particular."

Zilberfarb concluded, "The realization of the forecasts for 2000 in the area of tourism will be heavily affected by geopolitical conditions, the peace process and the easing of security concerns in the region. For many years, we have seen how Israeli tourism is extremely sensitive to these conditions of uncertainty."