Afternoon Tea in Jerusalem Blog

In addition to my work as a business coach, one of my interests is blogging about life in Israel. This is a country full of contrasts – over eight million citizens living in an area the size of Wales. You can see snow and the lowest place on the globe in the same day. Although surrounded by geopolitical extremes, Israel has achieved a decade of high economic growth. My work brings me in contact with an array of new companies, exciting technologies and dynamic characters. Sitting back with a relaxing cup of strong tea (with milk), you realise just how much there is to appreciate in the Holyland. Large or small operations, private sector or non profit, my clients provide experiences from which others can learn and benefit.

Wow. Israel’s economy shrank by only 2.4% in 2020. This is far less than had been initially feared. Compared to others in the OECD family, this puts Israel’s ranking in the top third.

Approaching the general election on 23rd March, the Prime Minister will probably be waving this stat at any journalist, who will listen. He will be hoping that Israelis will be feeling the turn-around. After all, today, Sunday, is the day, when shops are reopening after yet another lockdown.

So, what won’t the PM be pointing out? Yes, unemployment is stuck for now at 15%. Much worse is the analysis of the experts of that 2.4% number.

Exports, particularly high-tech sales, have maintained themselves. Companies like Intel had a bumper year. However, the real growth in sales overseas came from the goods sector (5.2%) rather than services. The latter surprisingly dropped nearly 3%.

So, if that was the good news, where is the black hole?

Private consumption, the amount spent by the average household, plummeted 9.4%. People have not been able to splurge on themselves. Interestingly, this area of activity is known to be responsive to government policies and statements. And yet, the Prime Minister has been unable / unwilling to pass a new state budget for three years.

That 9.4% stat one of the worst in the OECD. And when you allow for the increase in population, you realise the personal spending power of the individual voter has dropped 11.1% in 12 months. It is additional government spending – debt to be paid off in the future – that has taken up the slack.

But the typical voter does not see or know that.

Voters generally do not decide on the base of a few numbers. What counts is what they feel they do (or don’t) have in their pocket, and also how they perceive that could change after election day.

Politicians know what they need to report. Watch out for real numbers, mixed with fake interpretations.

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