$1.5 Billion in Investments Needed Each Year for Olim, Says Economist

In order to create the housing and jobs needed for the estimated million Soviet immigrants expected to settle in Israel by 1995, world Jewry must invest $1.5 billion in Israeli businesses each year in addition to what is raised through philanthropy, an Israeli economist said at a conference here Sunday.

From 1990 through 1994, creation of housing for the new immigrants and young Israeli adults will have cost $17.5 billion, and the creation of new jobs will cost $42 billion, according to Dr. Haim Ben-Shahar, an economics professor at Tel Aviv University.

In order to raise the capital necessary to ensure the successful absorption of the Soviet olim, “the Jewish people must come forward and place at the disposal of the Israeli economy, through loans and equity, an additional sum of at least $1.5 billion per annum,” he said.

The balance of the capital can be obtained “only with the U.S. government,” he said. While an increase in the current $1.2 billion U.S. economic assistance program for Israel is unlikely, commercial loans can be obtained with U.S. government guarantees.

Israel needs up to $3 billion in these guaranteed loans each year, he said.

Ben-Shahar shared this information with 100 leading American and Israeli economic, business and government leaders who gathered here Sunday and Monday for a conference organized by the North American Jewish Forum and the Center for Foreign Policy Options, a think tank.

The North American Jewish Forum, a project of the United Jewish Appeal and the Charles Bronfman Foundation, brings together Israeli and Diaspora leaders to exchange ideas and expertise on a range of topics.

$45 BILLION IN FOREIGN CAPITAL

Of the $60 billion total that will be required to create the necessary housing and jobs, about one-quarter can be provided by the Israeli government “if a proper economic policy is implemented,” Ben-Shahar said.

The rest, $45 billion in capital investment, must be imported.

Some $25 billion of that will be available through private, institutional and government channels, mostly from the U.S. government and the United Jewish Appeal.

The remaining $20 billion must be raised from other sources, which, according to Ben-Shahar, will be a very difficult task.

“The massive mobilization of resources can only be achieved with the participation of worldwide Jewry at a level hitherto unknown,” agreed Richard Rosenbloom, an economist at the Harvard University School of Business.

“Money must be mobilized as business investments, not philanthropy,” he said, “not to provide a dole for the needy but to provide employment for 500,000 people.”

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