The Israeli Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry held its first annual socioeconomic conference at the Avenue Convention Center near Ben-Gurion Airport yesterday. In a special interview for the purpose of the conference, international businessman and leading philanthropist Warren Buffett shared with the participants his views on the global economy and the role governments play in maintaining prosperous economies.Speaking about his decision to invest in Israel, Buffett said that what drew him to Israel was its brainpower.
“If you’re going to the Middle East to look for oil, you can skip Israel. If you’re looking for brains, look no further.
Israel has shown that it has a disproportionate amount of brains and energy,” Buffett said.
The conference featured speeches and panel discussions by economic and government leaders, all revolving around Israel’s current economic situation and its social implications.
In addition to Buffett, the 500 participants heard speeches by 10 cabinet ministers, the head of the opposition, the chairman of the Histadrut Labor Federation, the president of the manufacturers association, former finance ministers and Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry officials. Everyone who took to the stage paid tribute to the host, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin (Fuad) Ben-Eliezer, and commented on his ability to bring people together.
Ben-Eliezer started the day off by welcoming the participants and setting the stage for the following discussions by raising the dichotomy his ministry entails – on the one hand looking after the interests of industry and trade and on the other protecting the interests of workers and consumers.
“Many people think that there is a conflict of interests; I believe the opposite. The interests are not opposing – they are complimentary,” said Ben Eliezer. “The strength and uniqueness of the ministry is in its ability to look broadly and comprehensively and look after the different interest by providing balanced solutions. It is a difficult task, but I believe that only by doing so can we effectively lead the Israeli market towards its goals in the upcoming years.
“A developed market entails a delicate, but stable balance between a safe and fair job market and a flexible and dynamic business market,” Ben Eliezer continued. “In order for Israel to be part of the family of developed countries, it must protect both elements at the same time.”
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister in Charge of Negev and Galilee Development, Silvan Shalom, himself a former minister of finance, spoke about the need for Israel to shift its national priorities from focusing on defense to focusing on social problems.
“We currently possess a developed and growing economy.
We want to maintain the growth, but also make sure we are living in a just society. In order for everyone to enjoy the fruits of the growth, we need to see a change in the agenda,” Shalom said.
“When the Prime Minister spends 90 percent of his time dealing with security and diplomacy and nine percent is spent dealing with political survival, it is obvious that the pressing social issues are not at the center.”
According to Shalom, the budget is split incorrectly and funding for security “always comes at the expense of health, education and development.”
He added, “If we don’t leave here thinking of shifting to a civilian society, this will be nothing but another conference and nothing will change.”
Read more at JPost.