Regional

Israel economy shrinks in Q3 as a result of Gaza war

FILE - In this Wednesday, July 16, 2014, file photo, a rocket fired by Palestinian militants from inside Gaza Strip makes its way towards Israel, seen from the Israel Gaza Border. 2014 has been a difficult year for Israelis and Palestinians, with the failure of peace talks and a string of violent incidents that shows no signs of ending. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, File)

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel’s economy contracted for the first time in more than five years in the third quarter, as growth was hit by the effects of a war with Islamist militants in Gaza.

Gross domestic product fell 0.4 percent in the July-September period, the Central Bureau of Statistics said Sunday. It was the first quarterly decline since a 0.2 percent drop in the first three months of 2009, at the outset of the global financial crisis.

“We are talking about a one-time result and [it] will not have a long-term impact,” the Finance Ministry said in a statement.

Growth for all of 2014 is projected by the bureau at 2.2 percent, with Israel’s 50-day war in July and August having shaved off about half a percentage point.

Third-quarter GDP was forecast to have dipped 0.1 percent, according to a Reuters poll of analysts.

The Bank of Israel had previously said growth in the quarter was likely to be zero or negative, due to the war – a time when many factories sharply curtailed activity amid heavy rocket fire from Gaza, while consumers opted to stay home.

To offset the expected weakening of economic growth, coupled with a shift to deflation, the central bank had lowered its benchmark interest rate by a combined half-point in July and August to an all-time low of 0.25 percent. Policymakers left the key rate unchanged at their two subsequent meetings.

The Finance Ministry said that despite the weak third quarter it maintained a 2014 economic growth estimate of 2.4 percent and a forecast of 2.8 percent for 2015.

Exports, which account for some 40 percent of economic activity, rose 2.8 percent in Q3.

Private spending, another key driver, grew 3.9 percent, but investment in fixed assets slipped 3.6 percent. Government spending increased 3.1 percent and imports surged 16.2 percent.

Excluding public sector spending, the economy contracted 1.4 percent in the third quarter.

The bureau also revised its estimate for second-quarter GDP to 2.2 percent from a prior 1.9 percent.

It said Friday that Israel’s annual inflation rate had held steady at -0.3 percent in October. Israel moved to deflation in September for the first time since 2007.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 17, 2014, on page 5.

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