Israel heads to elections in March 2021. Israel’s economy slouches back to two years
So Israel is heading towards its fourth general election within 24 months. The Kenesset (Parliament) failed to pass the 2020 budget and thus the government automatically fell. In other words, despite controlling the Finance Ministry since December 2014, the Prime Minister has failed to deliver a budget since December 2018, and nothing serious is planned for 2021.
How can the economy carry on?
Earlier this morning, I listened to a seasonal wrap up of the global economy from the Economist Podcast Unit. (Recommended). Overall, the participants were cautiously optimistic for 2021. I could not offer the same prognosis for Israel.
However, hightech represents about 15% of the economy. Around 95% of the economy is made up of small or medium sized businesses that are struggling.
Last week, I was shopping in the centre of Jerusalem. In what is known as “the triangle”, a key retail area, I would estimate that around 15% – 20% of the premises had shut up shop and gone. I asked one well-known shop owner if he had been visited by local or central bureaucrats or politicians. As he said to me with a wry smile, “they are too busy”.
The Israeli economy has already contracted by nearly 3% this year. It is unlikely to make that up next year, even more so as the political uncertainty will continue until the early summer. (It is assumed that it will take a further 6-8 weeks after the election to form a coalition). Meanwhile, as the country approaches its third lockdown, unemployment remains at over 14%.
The government budget provides direction and guidance. No budget means that everyone is left to fight for the themselves. With healthy fundamentals, you can get away with that for a while. However, sooner rather than later, you end up destroying what has been created in the past.
It does not take two years to pass a budget. That is a sign of incompetence – politicians playing politics with the health of people’s finances – and those of their children – setting lives back years. I hope that those responsible for this negligence will be thrown out of power.