Thursday, January 29, 2009

Netanyahu optimistic in Davos

"Globes": So you don’t share in the general pessimism we hear here?

Netanyahu: "I'm optimistic about Israel. I don’t accept the assumption that Israel is dependent on the global economy and nothing can be done about it. Israel was one of the last countries to enter the crisis, and if we act right, Israel will be one of the first countries to emerge from it."

What is your opinion about how the Ministry of Finance is dealing with the crisis?

"The Ministry of Finance did not have ready plans, and its conduct reminds me of the conduct of Kadima in general. We could have emerged from the crisis sooner, but it's not yet too late."

What do you think should be done?

"From my point of view, we should be operating at several levels simultaneously: deal immediately with the credit crisis; increase R&D; invest in infrastructures and transport; and cut taxes. Tackling each of these measures separately won't yield results. We must do all of them together. Nonetheless, it's important to stress that there won't be a budget blowout; that would be a mistake, whether you're a business or a country. I won't let any party extort us."

How do you intend to deal with the credit crunch in Israel?

"It's vital to deal with this issue. The credit crunch is due, in part, to fear. Fear that the government can deal with by granting guarantees. It's also possible to use some of the US guarantees. When I was finance minister, we held back part of the guarantee for a rainy day, and that day has come."

Will you appoint a professional as finance minister?

"If I'm elected, it's very important to me to appoint to the defense and finance portfolios someone who can lead the policies that I believe in. What I can say today is that if I'm elected, the finance and education portfolios will be held by the Likud."

What is your opinion to the criticism that a large part of the capital market crisis is due to the Bachar reforms, for which you were responsible?

"These accusations are groundless. The capital market reforms that I led saved the old pension funds, and the new pension funds are in much better shape than pension funds in other countries. As for the provident funds, they've been in the capital market since the 1980s."

Netanyahu took the opportunity to take a swipe at Kadima. "When the boom was at its height, Likud MK Haim Katz proposed a bill bringing provident funds' bond holdings to at least 75%. We, in effect, wanted to restore the safety net, but Kadima objected, and the bill failed."