TEL AVIV (Jan. 31)
Seventy prominent Jewish businessmen of North African origin were told by Finance Minister Yigal Hurwitz that the time is ripe for them to invest in Israel. The work ethic is strong again, there is new respect for the Israel found and production is going up, Hurwitz said in an address to the first World Congress of North African Jewish Businessmen.
The Congress is sponsored by the World Organization of North African Jews. Its organizers said it represented a challenge to a rival organization, the World Federation of Sephardic Jews, whose president, Nissim Goon, allegedly holds the position that Israel is not ready for foreign investments but must depend upon charitable contributions. Shaul Ben Simhon, chairman of the new group, said the goal of the Congress is to develop the framework for partnership between foreign investors and Israel’s economy.
The participants, all of them wealthy businessmen, financiers and investors, come from France, Spain, England, Switzerland, Canada, Venezuela and Argentina as well as Israel. Hurwitz said he would not presume to tell them how to invest their money here but he hoped they would think in terms of productive industries for export.
However, he said, investments in service industries such as hotels and other tourist facilities would also be welcomed. He urged the participants to use their influence in their home countries to increase the purchase of Israel made goods to stimulate Israel’s export industries.
DISCUSS A VARIETY OF SUBJECTS
The Congress, which opened Monday, will continue for a week. Projects on the agenda include investments in land, construction of a “second home” in Israel and partnerships with Israeli businessmen in industrial or agricultural fields. The Bank Leumi and the Israel Discount Bank helped finance the gathering.
Ben Simhon raised the question of the underprivileged in Israeli society, the majority of whom are of Oriental origin and said he hoped the economic measures adopted by Hurwitz would not be harmful to them. Hurwitz replied that the underprivileged groups stood to benefit once inflation is checked.
David Brudett, head of the Finance Ministry’s planning department, spoke of the prospects for trade between Israel and Egypt now that normal relations have been established between the two countries. He estimated that in the first stages, Israel could export $50-$60 million worth of goods to Egypt annually.