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Jewish Agency Hears Rosy Forecast on Economy from Finance Minister

Finance Minister Avraham Shohat told the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors this week that a strong economy is “the best and main solution” for absorbing immigrants and that the new government’s policies are spurring economic growth.

But Shohat conceded that the government’s best efforts to create jobs have not yet made a dent in the 11 percent unemployment rate.

“We’re doing the best we can,” said Shohat. He pointed out that 75,000 new jobs were created last year and argued against short-term quick fixes advocated by some politicians here.

Shohat pointed to recently stepped up spending on infrastructure, education and investment incentives, saying it would lead to a healthier investment climate, a more competitive work force and long-term job growth.

The finance minister acknowledged that unemployment is key. “It means 200,000 who want to work can’t find work,” he said.

“And it affects the decision to make aliyah,” he said. “The fact that it is quite hard to find a job here,” especially in potential immigrants’ professions, directly influences their decision to come to Israel, he said.

But Shohat emphasized the positive in his presentation to the Jewish Agency leaders. He cited last year’s growth rate of 7 percent, an export increase of 11 percent and progress toward privatization of state-owned industries.

Shohat also predicted a boon in foreign investment in Israel in response to prospects for regional peace agreements. The desire to invest here is “unbelievable,” he said.

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