Many current immigrants are highly educated and contribute to economic growth in far greater percentage than native born Israelis. A commission recently estimated overall positive financial impact from American Immigrants since 2002 has contributed to over $250 million in the country's wealth. The commission also reported that three quarters of these immigrants come with at least a bachelors degree and with a medium net worth of $180,000 comes with.
Israel also has the advantage of having Stanley Fischer a brilliant economist serving as governor of the Bank Of Israel. Bloomberg recently ran a story on Fischer which stated that many of today’s top economists including Lawrence Summers and Ben Bernanke were his former students. The article stated “Many central bankers value him as a thinker about central banking, about monetary and financial policy,” says Nobel Memorial Prize-winning economist and MIT professor emeritus Robert Solow, one of Fischer’s own mentors. Fischer was vital in lessening the impact of the world wide recession on the Israeli economy.Fischer lowered interest rates on Oct 7, 2007 one day before the US and Europe acted in similar fashion. On August 25 he raised interest rates, which resulted in Israel becoming the first country in the West to raise interest rates. It seems that he is always a step ahead of his western colleagues in his actions.
Israel has another advantage in its banks being among the least effected by the current crisis. Its banks are among the healthiest in the world and had very little exposure to subprime lending and there was no need for a government rescue plan. Israel’s housing market has grown in the past two quarters faster than anywhere in the world. This is in contrast to countries all over the world which had to spend massive amounts of money to stabilize their banking system and prop up their housing markets.
Many European countries including UK, Germany, Belgium and many others had to give significant assistance their banks in order to avert a financial collapse. These problems were not limited to America or Europe, even Kazakhstan had to inject significant sums of money to several of its leading banks which were adversely affected by the global credit crunch. Despite this assistance many of these banks across the world are still threatened by bad loans that many financial institutions in worldwide. This is not the case in Israel which has a stable banking sector which allows for robust growth in the future.
Finally before getting into specifics as to the ideal way to invest in Israel, I must discuss challenges facing the country. Despite occasional violence Israel is a relatively safe place. After Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield in 2003 to crush terror cells in the West Bank there have been very few suicide bombings. However despite the decrease in terrorism, Israel is constantly being threatended by enemies. Israel has adapted to this reality by become one of the world leaders in military technogy.
Military technology is not the only area where Israel excels, technology for a wide variety of products are Israeli made. Israel has more companies on the nsadaq(besides the US) than China, India, Japan and all of Europe combined. This figure is not per capita, it is total, Israel a country of 7.1 million people has more companies listed on the Nasdaq than China which has a population of over 1.3 billion people. The lack of adequate water has resulted in Israel becoming a leader in drip irrigation and more recently in water desalinization. Israel is a remarkable country that takes advantage of its problems by producing innovative technology to overcome these disadvantages.
With investing in Israel you are getting the growth of an emerging market while getting the stability of a developed nation. Every international investor should consider investing in Israel.
I will discuss the valuation aspects of investing in Israel in Part II.