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Eshkol Outlines Four-year Economic Growth Plan to Economic Conference

April 2, 1968
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Prime Minister Levi Eshkol outlined a program of major economic growth for Israel during the next four years to an international gathering of leading Jewish businessmen and economists from all over the world that opened here today. Mr. Eshkol, who called the conference after the June Six Day War, predicted that Israel’s gross national product would increase at the rate of 8 percent a year between now and 1972 and that while imports may still exceed exports by $400 million in that year, Israel’s exports will have grown by 80 percent.

The Prime Minister said that Israel’s economy would be able to absorb an additional 200,000 workers over the next four years. He estimated that the nation’s population will exceed three million by 1972, not including occupied territories. He said that 70 percent of the population rise would be through natural increase and 30 percent will come through aliyah (immigration). Mr. Eshkol called on the Jews of the world to “invest their Jewish spirit and Jewish intelligence” to help achieve Israel’s economic goals.

A program offering new incentives to investors from abroad was submitted to the conference participants. Among the measures, which were approved only last night by a committee of Israel’s economic ministers, was one permitting investors to withdraw the sum of their investment plus profits in foreign currency at the official rate of exchange. A total of 400 businessmen from abroad were expected to attend the conference along with 100 Israeli business leaders. As of this morning, however, many who had confirmed their attendance had not yet arrived. It was learned that 80 businessmen cancelled their trips to Israel because of recent terrorist activities.

Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir disclosed that Israel was considering new patterns of transportation in keeping with its geographical position between Africa, Asia and Europe. One idea, he said, was large scale trucking of goods from Elath on the Gulf of Akaba to the Mediterranean where the cargo would be loaded aboard ships. Another was to convert the Tel Aviv Airport at Lod into a giant center for air freight traffic, he said. Zeev Sharef, Minister of Commerce and Industry, said that Israel had ventured into the chemical and petro-chemical fields as well as electronics and other new industries requiring specialized know-how and intended to stress these in the future. He said plans were being speeded up for aircraft production.

Baron Edmund de Rothschild, of France, said the conference could set an example for the economic growth of underdeveloped nations and that Israel’s Arab neighbors could also benefit from Israel’s experience if they want peace. Sir Isaac Wolfson, of Great Britain, proposed establishment of an international foundation for industrial research in Israel to which each participant would contribute 10,000 pounds sterling ($240,000). Sir Sigmund Warburg, of Britain, proposed the establishment by the conference of a permanent secretariat. Samuel Rothberg, of New York, declared that Israel had given Jews abroad much more than she had received from them in terms of pride in being Jewish.

A series of new projects to aid Israel’s economy, stimulate tourism and promote the sale of Israeli products abroad emerged from a three-day conference of young business leaders from various countries that ended in Rehovot last night. The 100 participants moved to Jerusalem this morning to join the world conference of Jewish businessmen and economic leaders.

The preliminary conference, held at the Weizmann Institute of Science, was billed as the first international young leadership conference. The gathering agreed to establish special bodies to promote housing; a profit-making company to devise projects to attract more tourists; building and loan associations; an insurance corporation to invest in rental housing and a body to promote a closer relationship between scientific research in Israel and private industry. It was also decided to create a “volunteers for Israel products” group in as many countries as possible. Canadian businessmen at the conference announced the establishment of a summer camp in Israel for 1,000 teen-agers from abroad. The conference was chaired by Stephen Stulman of New York.

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