Friday, June 04, 2004

Olmert Knows What He's Talking About

This Jerusalem Post article (reg. reqd.) indicates that Communications Minister Ehud Olmert shares my views about Benjamin Netanyahu's playing to the extremist portion of Likud over the Gaza withdrawal issue. Netanyahu's done a really marvellous job as Finance Minister, and the only thing preventing Israel from reaping the full benefits of the reforms he's instituted is the political uncertainty that he himself is helping to perpetuate. One can have the best economic program in the world on paper and investors will still stay away, unless political stability (or at least the prospect of it) is also on the table.

Communications Minister Ehud Olmert directed thinly veiled criticism against Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday, blaming him for ruining solid right-wing economics with what he called "irresponsible" right-wing politics.

Although he never mentioned his name during his speech at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, it was clear that Olmert was referring to Netanyahu when he said: "Yesterday's failed offering is a warning signal to all those who think they can maintain modern economic policy with international connections in tandem with irresponsible political policy."

Olmert was speaking at a toast to the renewal of trade in Bezeq shares.

The Government Companies Authority tried to sell 5.9 percent of Bezeq shares, worth about NIS 750 million. But it managed to sell just NIS 300m. to the public. Underwriters were obligated to buy another NIS 50m.

The authority expected foreigners to buy the rest of the shares, but the offering went sour when they failed to materialize. In all, foreigners bought just NIS 45m.

Bezeq's share price fell 2.2% on Wednesday and 1.8% on Thursday to NIS 472.30.
"I'm not an economist," Olmert said, "and I'm not an expert in financial processes, but I know a little about public sentiment, and I am convinced that foreigners did not stay away for economic reasons.

"It's not that the foreigners know something that we don't. I'm in touch with foreigners, and I know they are watching non-economic developments with seven eyes. I hope all the engineers of courageous economic reforms will now take courageous [political] steps. Otherwise, all the economic achievements will be undermined."
If it were possible to combine in one person the economic expertise of Netanyahu and the social moderation (not to mention human compassion) of Tommy Lapid, I think Israel would have the ideal template for a minister. Shinui strikes me as the realization in the concrete of what a realist* libertarian party ought to look like, and if I were an Israeli I'm certain I'd be a member.

*As opposed to the utopian nuts who run the United States' Libertarian Party. Anybody who seriously talks about going back to the gold standard is certifiably insane as far as I'm concerned.