From the economy to security to developments in the hi-tech industry and the beginning of natural gas sales, there was a lot to celebrate in 2013 in Israel.
In the face of war, anarchy, financial crises and debt meltdowns, supertanker Israel has bucked the tide. Israeli GDP expanded 3.3%, almost three times the growth rates reported for fellow OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries.
Unemployment in 2013 in Israel, at 6.2 percent, was among the lowest in developed nations, including the United States (6.7%), and Europe (10.8%). Inflation stood at 1.8%, going down by over 50% in the past five years.
Natural gas discoveries off the coast of Haifa began turning a profit. Over 25% of the growth in Israel in 2013 came through sales of natural gas from the Tamar field. Reduction in energy imports have contributed to a fall in the Israeli trade deficit.
Industrial production grew by 3.7%, powered by Israel’s high tech sector. All Israeli initial public offerings and companies sold reached a new record of $7.6 billion; 662 high-tech companies received funding of $2.3 billion, the highest amount in a decade.
A record 3.54-million tourists spent part of 2013 in Israel.
Even the liability side of Israel’s books were promising. In January 2013, Israel projected a budget deficit of 4.3%. After 12 months of sound government spending, the actual deficit was at 3.2%. The U.S. posted a similar deficit of 4%, and Great Britain posted a budget shortfall of 7%.
Government debt equaled 69.6% of Israel’s economy. Global agency Fitch Ratings projects this number to fall to 65.4% by 2015 as the government works to reach its goal of 60% by 2020.
The government put its added finances to good use in Israel in 2013. It offered free education for toddlers, giving 290,000 children from ages three to four a free nursery school experience. The country also subsidized dental treatment for children under 12. More than 3 million children have enjoyed free dental care.
2013 in Israel was Safer on all Fronts
According to Shin Bet security, terrorism slowed dramatically in 2013 in Israel. There was a 97% reduction in rockets and mortars launched from Gaza. Only 74 projectiles were fired at the Jewish State. In the five-year period leading up to the Arab Spring, terror-related deaths were three times higher than in the past year.
Israel in 2013 also reversed the tide of illegal immigrants. The security barrier separating Egypt from Israel was completed. Not a single infiltrator has penetrated Israel’s borders in the past month. Last February, 1,705 left the country.
2013 in Israel was Only the Beginning
This year is off to a good start. In January 2014 the government reported a higher-than-expected level of tax receipts, implying expanded economic activity. Gas revenues are projected to add more money to government coffers. A recent report by Ernst and Young estimated the Tamar and Leviathan gas fields to be worth $52 billion.
The Tamar gas field is projected to boost Israeli GDP by 1.5% in 2014. The Leviathan field, which holds double the natural gas, will be ready for production three years later.
Israel has already announced plans to build 70,000 new housing units in the coastal city of Netanya. New high-speed rail lines will reduce travel time between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to 30 minutes by 2018. Expanded rail lines within the capital will enable the municipality to reach its goal of 100,000 new jobs over the next five years.
More than $3.7 billion was invested in transportation infrastructure. Israel is working on freight lines from Eilat to the port cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod. The freight service will serve as an alternative to the Suez Canal, allowing countries in Asia to use a safer trade route to Europe.
The year 2013 in Israel was impressive. The best is yet to come.
Author: David Fink, contributor, United with Israel
Date: Mar. 24, 2014