Good News, Israel

Compliments of Anglo Raannana Real Estate

Quote for the week

    “The Shalit march was not a political event, but one that came from the heart. It was the most spontaneous, humane and impressive demonstration ever held here. At the risk of sounding schmaltzy, it was good to see the face of the beautiful Israeli”

    (Yoel Marcus. Well known Israeli columnist writing in Ha’Aretz [See first item below])

· While we don’t usually comment on items connected with the ‘situation’ we felt that we had to make an exception in the case of our soldier, a tankist, who was kidnapped and has been held incommunicado for more than four years deprived of all the rights normally accorded soldiers in like circumstances. Not GN by the furthest stretch of imagination, but the other side of the coin is that the family, the government and the people at large have not let up for one moment in their efforts to get Gilad Shalit released and their latest attempt was a ten day march across Israel joined by hundreds of thousands of Israelis from every level of society in a show of solidarity and sympathy with the Shalit family and that dear reader, as Joel Marcus says, is the face of the beautiful Israeli, GN indeed.

· And now for a look at the economic and business development front:

    ü Shari Arison-controlled Shikun u’Binui Holdings Ltd. signed a $290 million contract with the Nigerian government this week to widen and upgrade the 52-kilometer road between Ibadan and Ilorin in southwest Nigeria. The company will add two lanes to the road and turn it into an expressway. The project will be financed by the Nigerian government. Obviously an undertaking of this nature looks good on any balance sheet and nobody is complaining about that but there is another dimension to it all and that is the provision of basic infrastructure of the highest quality that helps these emerging economies to become more competitive in the ‘Global Village’ and improves the quality of life and the standard of living of the indigenous inhabitants.

    ü Stef Wertheimer is not a name to be taken lightly. He is a man who has made an outstanding success of his business ventures and who has become a legend because of his ongoing contribution to the community at large and one of his most recent projects has came to fruition this week with the laying of the cornerstone of the Nazareth Industrial Park that will serve – the first of its kind to do so – Israel’s Arab sector, providing them with business opportunities and jobs that will redound to the benefit of all of us. Everybody who should have been there was there and that reflected the importance of the occasion but was also a measure of the esteem in which Mr Wertheimer is held.

    ü The first half of 2010 has noted a 24% decrease in jobless claims and a 9% drop in unemployment benefits applications filed with the National Insurance Institute. According to the data, reported Monday and supplied by the Central Bureau of Statistics the unemployment figure came to 6.9% for the period of March and April, down on the previous period. An interesting fact is that only half of those categorized as “young jobless” maxed out their entitlement period suggesting that young people wish to rejoin the workforce as soon as they can, and make minimum use of their unemployment benefits.

    ü We all know the story about the two inevitabilities in life, one is er … and the other one is taxes. Well taxes are still with us but, and here comes the GN; according to the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies (JIMS), Israel’s tax burden has never been lower. JIMS “whose mission is to promote social progress in Israel through economic freedom and individual liberty,” [Wow, that sounds really good] tells us that for the first time ever –since 1990 anyway when it all started – Israelis can celebrate Tax Freedom Day in the first half of the year. Apart from making you feel that you should go out and have a drink [if only the taxes on alcohol weren’t so high], what exactly is tax freedom day? It’s the day of the year when Israelis have earned enough income to cover all their taxes for that year and this year it fell on June 22 a whole 25 days earlier than last year. So, while we don’t like comparisons we’ll make them anyway, we can feel better off than the Germans who celebrate Tax Freedom Day on July 8, the French on July 16 and the Swedes and Norwegians on July 29.

    ü Next-generation network solutions developer ECI Telecom Ltd. has been selected as a strategic partner by BT Group plc unit, Openreach in order to help BT [ BT stands for British Telekom by the way] upgrade the broadband infrastructure in the UK. The deal is worth $800 million for ECI. Openreach plans to invest an additional ?1 billion to extend the system to two-thirds of the UK by 2015, bringing the total investment in the project to ?2.5 billion. Openreach was founded in 2006 to give communications providers equal access to the UK’s local network (last mile) and now ECI is a part of all that.

    ü According to the CBS, the percentage of GDP spent on R&D in Israel was 4.9% in 2008 double what it was in 2005. In 2007, the percentage of GDP spent on R&D in Israel was the highest of any OECD country [CBS, GDP, R&D, OECD, doesn’t anybody use words any more?] and that was before we became a member of this exclusive club, and higher than the European Union target for 2010 of 3% of GDP. That’s a bit of Israeli Chutzpah; you’re the new guy on the block and you’re already better than the established residents.

    ü A record, an all time record,1.6 million tourists visited Israel in the first half of 2010, beating the first half of 2008 – the previous record- by a whopping 10%. Or so our favorite government department and purveyor of GN, the Central Bureau of Statistics reports. And that’s not all, June was also a new record for all the Junes that came before, with 259,000 tourists joining us and very welcome they are too. And we liked this one, 8,500 good people visited Israel on cruise ships, a seven-fold increase compared with June 2009 and 3 times more than June 2008. The Tourism Ministry said that the tourists brought the country an estimated $1.55 billion, not counting airfares, in the first six months and that of course is very important especially in terms of job creation but we like to feel that the really GN will be when each and every one of these tourists will have such a positive experience in the Holy Land that they will go back to their home countries as ambassadors of goodwill for Israel.

· And now two brief sports items to close. No, we didn’t quite make it to the Mondial [perhaps because Octopaul can’t read Hebrew] but we did win a gold when Shahar Zubari proved he remains Israel’s best medal hope at the 2012 London Olympics, claimed his second- straight European Windsurfing Championship’s top medal in Sopot, Poland at the end of last week. The 23-year-old, who won the bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, led throughout the championships in Eastern Europe after finishing in first position in five of the competition’s first six races.

· The national basketball side beat Ukraine 73-65 on Saturday and got the better of the Bulgarians on Sunday in a series of international friendlies as a warm-up for the real thing soon to begin. Yotam Halperin with 22 points was selected as the MVP [yet another abbreviation this time standing for Most Valued Player] of the four-team tournament.

July 17, 2010 | Comments »

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