TEL AVIV – Israel’s economic growth last year exceeded all predictions, boding well for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who hopes his stewardship of the Jewish state’s strong finances will give him the upper hand against main political challenger Blue and White’s Benny Gantz, Bloomberg News reported.
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, the GDP rose a seasonally adjusted, annualized 4.8 percent last quarter, which is the fastest quarterly rate in two years. At 3.5 percent expansion, 2019 topped 2018 and defied all predictions that growth would plateau as a result of deadlock elections.
Bank of Israel researchers had predicted 2019 and 2020 growth would only approach three percent, the result of a decrease in world trade and the interim government’s failure to pass a 2020 budget.
Public spending, which took the biggest hit, would likely rise again once the budget is in place, Leader Capital Markets Ltd. economist Jonathan Katz said.
Fourth-quarter growth last year saw a 10 percent rise in private consumption and an 8.7 percent jump in investment, the report said, but noted that some of these numbers were affected by quarterly car imports.
Netanyahu is prioritizing his leadership of Israel’s strong economy in next month’s election, the report said, in the hope it will give him a definitive edge over Gantz.
“Underlying growth in Israel has been relatively stable this year and surprises to quarterly GDP data have largely been driven either by sharp changes in inventories or fluctuations in car purchases,” Goldman Sachs Group Inc. economists said before the data release.
But even without import taxes, growth was 3.3 percent in the quarter, “a strong number,” according to Katz.
“The data could push central bankers to continue favoring foreign-currency purchases over potential interest-rate cuts as a means of easing policy since growth is purring along,” he said.
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