Land of Milk and Honey

Manila Bulletin, April 9, 2018 | Go to article overview

Land of Milk and Honey


By Bernardo M. Villegas

Closer economic and cultural ties of the Philippines with Israel can help us accelerate the improvement of both our educational system and our technological sector. As reported in Wikipedia, Israel's quality university education and the establishment of a highly motivated and educated population are largely responsible for ushering in the country's high technology boom and outstanding economic development. Its highly developed educational system, especially at the university levels, coupled with an effective incubation system for new cutting-edge ideas to create value driven goods and services have allowed the country to create a high concentration of high-tech companies financially backed by a strong venture capital industry. It has a central technology hub called "Silicon Wadi" only second in importance to the original Silicon Valley in California, USA. A good number of Israeli companies have been acquired by global corporations for their reliable and quality technical personnel. The country was the destination for Berkshire Hathaway's first investment outside the US when it acquired ISCAR Metalworking, and the first research and development center outside the US established by high-tech giants Intel, Microsoft, and Apple.

Because of its impressive track record for creating profit driven technologies, Israel has become the first choice for many of world's leading entrepreneurs, investors, and industry giants. The very dynamic environment of the country has attracted attention from international business leaders such as Bill Gates of Microsoft, investor Warren Buffet, real estate developer and now US President Donald Trump and telecommunications giant Carlos Sim. In September 2010, Israel was invited to join OECD, the organization of highly developed countries all over the world. It also has signed free trade agreements with the European Union, the US, the European Free Trade Association, Turkey, Mexico, Canada, Jordan, Egypt, and in 2007 became the first non-Latin American country to sign a free trade agreement with the Mercosur trade bloc.

In the past few years, Foreign Direct Investments have flowed into Israel in massive amounts, as companies that formerly shunned the Israeli market now see its potential contribution to their global strategies. In fact, my own experience when I recently visited Israel for a three-week study and tour made me realize that foreign media oftentimes exaggerates the dangers to visitors from the geopolitical realities in Palestine. Despite some alarming news concerning the controversy generated by the announcement by President Trump of the US that Jerusalem would be made the Capital of Israel, there was not a single day that we felt threatened by untoward incidents. The Israeli government is extremely competent in securing the land and the status quo among the various groups -- the Jews, Arabs and Christians in the Holy Land -- has maintained peace and order very well. As the Financial Times reported "bombs drop, yet Israel's economy grows."

The effectiveness of the security forces is fortunately complemented by equally effective macroeconomic policies which have resulted in the country being a net lender rather than a borrower nation. The Bank of Israel refused to succumb to pressure by the banks to appropriate large sums of public money to aid them in the crisis of the early 2000s resulting from the dotcom crash. …

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