Eight months into the Covid-19 crisis, and the Israeli government has yet to draw up a clear economic response paper to the crisis. As the country is leaving its second lockdown, we know that:
- The economy imploded by over 10% in the first half of 2020.
- In September, unemployment doubled within 30 days.
- The shekel is still gaining against major currencies, ensuring that exports are less competitive.
- And at least five senior officials at the Ministry of Finance have quit in protest at the incompetence of their political bosses.
A totally uninspiring scenario.
Yes, investment in hightech remains buoyant. The peace agreements with Gulf states are brining almost immediate economic benefits, at last for those at the top. The Israeli Prime Minister reminded his nation that the country is ahead of Europe, which is just heading into its ‘second wave’ of the virus.
But so what? The European Union is Israel’s second largest trading partner. It is facing the threat of what is known as ‘double dip recession‘. If so, this will further threaten the ability to buy goods and services from Israel.
Bibi Netanyahu was a Finance Minister, who helped to craft much of the success of the past two decades. Today, he is wedged between the impact of Covid-19, his preparation for three legal trials, and a political constellation that keeps him tied to an ultra-orthodox community that has little immediate interest in economic rejuvenation.
In other words, the Prime Minister has neither the time nor the ability nor the space to lead his country out of its economic mess. There is no “new plan” on offer. There are no suggestions to revamp city centres, which are turning into dustbowls, literally. People are still being paid to stay at home on furlough rather than giving the money the companies to re-employ them. Grants to businesses are still wrapped in confusing conditions and based on one factor and one factor only – did your revenues decrease by more than 25% in early 2020?
This is absolute nonsense. This is a leadership that has walked away from its electorate. This is unacceptable.
Nevertheless, it is amazing how some people have learnt to adapt and to pivot.
- The clothing shop that offers a private VIP service.
- A plastics factory that realised how shops and reception areas need screens
- The bike store that has supplied dozens of home trainers.
None of these small business owners hung around, waiting for guidance from those who have been elected or promoted, because they are supposed to know better!
Is there hope? I leave with a piece of ingenuity from the younger generation. Four kids felt they were desperate for a burger and chips from McDonalds. However, the restaurant chain was only permitted to sell via drive-in takeaways.
Our heroes found some carton boxes and cut them into the shape of a car. With their new ‘attire’, they pulled up (so-to-speak) alongside the check out counter and dutifully ordered. Everyone was a winner and the government regulations were adhered to.
Well, it is easier to formulate regulations rather than dramatic new policies and provide hope for the future.