JERUSALEM (Jun. 25)
Premier Golda Meir today formally opened the second world economic conference for Israel, a sequel to the international economic conference convened here in April, 1968, by her predecessor, the late Premier Levi Eshkol. Israel’s Finance Minister and Minister of Commerce and Industry, Zeev Sharef, told the assembled businessmen from the U.S. and other countries that their deliberations should focus on the question of investment, just as last year’s meeting was concerned mainly with exports.
Mr. Sharef outlined several new laws just passed by the Knesset to encourage foreign investment by offering incentives to investors. The Israel Corporation Law, passed yesterday, sets up a $100 million holding and investment company to finance new industrial ventures and provide capital for the expansion of existing ventures. Another bill provides for accelerated amortization on industrial equipment for income tax purposes. And a third eases the way for mergers and amalgamations of related industries by allowing the parent companies to write off losses of subsidiaries against their own gains.
Mr. Sharef said the optimism of the delegates to the 1968 economic conference was partly justified by the results of the past year. He said that Israel’s exports rose considerably but that they were offset by spiraling imports, largely for defense purposes. He said that in addition to defense spending, Israel spent over $175 million a year for immigrant absorption needs.
Heads of various regional committees set up at the 1968 conference reported yesterday on progress made to date. Victor Carter of Los Angeles, chairman of the U.S. regional committee, disclosed that 49 projects representing a $56 million investment by American firms have been approved since last year’s conference. He said the projects have brought U.S. businessmen into “living contact” with Israel’s economy and opened a “new and historic partnership.”
Francois Pereire, chairman of the European regional committee, said 40 investment ventures had been made final so far within the purview of his group and 20 more were in various stages of completion. Samuel Rothberg of Peoria, III, chairman of the finance committee, mentioned four projects with which his own firm, Israel Investors Corp., is associated. They are a plant for the manufacture of leather clothing whose staff has doubled and exports tripled during the past year; a machine tool corporation; the General Education Corp.; and the Israel Tractor Corp.