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June 28, 1985 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-06-28

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News Editor

Israelis will be living from
paycheck to paycheck this sum-
mer says Pinchas Levenson.
That's the short-term economic
reality. The long-term solution is
science-based exports and a gov-
ernment that has the political
will to face up to Israel's eco-
nomic problems.
Levenson, the American-born
and educated managing editor of
The Israel Economist and the Is-
rael Economic and Business Re-
view, was in Detroit recently as
part of a nationwide tour spon-
sored by the American Jewish
Committee and the American Is-
rael Chamber of Commerce,
pushing more exports from Israel
to America.
But Levenson freely suggests
that Israeli government policies
will have to change to cure the
ailing Israeli economy.
"How Israel will make it
through the summer" until it
gets its U.S. aid in the fall will be
the key question, Levenson said.
The impetus for reform, he be-
lieves, will be a crisis in confi-
dence in the international finan-
cial community. If such a crisis
occurs, Israel's $2 billion in
foreign currency would be subject
to quick withdrawal. This would
lead to difficulties in paying gov-
ernment workers — 30 percent of
the country's workforce — and
massive layoffs.
"The government has to em-
ploy fewer people and withdraw
from the daily economic life of the
people," Levenson told The
Jewish News. "I don't expect the
government to take these meas-
ures through its own free will. It
would precipitate a national elec-
Levenson believes a national
political or economic crisis will be
used to force new elections in Is-
rael before th 1986 changing-of-
the-guard from Shimon Peres as
premier to Yitzhak Shamir.
Levenson expects Peres to "win
on his own," but predicts his nar-

row post-election power base
"will leave a lack of options and
motivate economic change."
Levenson says Israel will see
higher prices, significant unem-
ployment and a lower standard of
living because of the Israeli gov-
ernment's refusal to address its
economic problems. "There is a
continual drain on foreign cur-
rency reserves. Exports and im-
ports are falling this year, con-
trary to predictions, and omin-
ously exports are falling faster."
He blame new Israeli taxes for
increasing the cost of production
and a downturn in defense-
related exports to Latin America,
which is experiencing its own
economic problems.
Israel's labor-Zionist-socialist
credo is to blame, Levenson says,

An Israeli forecasts
problems for his
country's economy.

because it favors government in-
tervention in the capital, labor
and product markets. "This was
out of necessity in the early days.
The early immigrants had no
skills and the government had to
find employment for them,"
Levenson said.
"Even today, 55 percent of the
country comes from a Sephardi
backgound. They were not ready
to function in an industrialized,
Western society. The Ethiopians
are the latest example."
Inflation, Levenson believes, is
Israel's central problem, and "un-
til it is cured everything else is
just a stop-gap measure." The
government must stop printing
excess money, and stop circum-
venting its own rules on cur-
rency. "The Bank of Israel has
passed a regulation to halt this
practice, but the government al-

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