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Economic Conference Hears of Need to Improve Conditions for Investment in Israel

April 3, 1968
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Jewish business leaders from abroad, attending Prime Minister Eshkol’s world economic conference here, voiced sharp criticism last night of red tape and bureaucratic obstructionism in Israel and urged that steps be taken to improve the climate for foreign investments in the country. The speakers apparently accepted the invitation of Minister of Commerce and Industry Zeev Sharef who said at the conference’s opening session yesterday that constructive criticism was welcome. They also indicated that they were here not only to confer but to work out specific deals with Israeli businessmen.

One of the sharpest critics, Victor M. Carter, of Los Angeles, complained that approval of an investment in Israel required 28 consecutive procedures which he said had a deterrent effect on potential investors. But, Mr. Carter noted, the conference’s American regional committee of which he is chairman, has already concluded 32 deals between American and Israeli firms.

Lord Sieff, of Great Britain, said Israel needed a thorough revision of its tax and dues system. Investments are worthwhile, he said, only if the investor sends experts to check on production processes. Francois Pereire, of France, said that while the conference can conclude business deals, its main objective must be the development of trade agreements involving know-how and the training of young experts. A. Bronfman, of Canada, said that many investors had been disappointed by the depletion of the value of their investments. Israel must create an economic climate to make profits and, even more important, the Government must streamline its process for handling investments, he said.

At last night’s plenary session, Leon Perahia of Argentina disclosed that Latin American Jews will invest $10 million to establish a holding company in Israel. Fritz Hollander, of Sweden, warned against creating export industries without first making sure that there is a home market to absorb some of their products. Max Ratner of Cleveland, chairman of the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce, announced that the P.V.C. electrochemical company that he heads in Israel will double its capacity. This year’s output, he said, has been sold out.

The session heard Baron Edmund de Rothschild, of France describe Israel as a tremendous humanitarian challenge. It was also privy to one of Israel’s internal quarrels when Z. Susayeff, president of the Israeli industrialists association, charged that Histadrut enterprises get preferential treatment from the Government. A. Yadlin of Histadrut, retorted that “we’re here to stay.” The conference split into more than 20 committees and sub-committees today to deal with specific projects and proposals.

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