27 September 2011 - A gloomy autumnal morning seemed a fitting accompaniment to the melancholy mood engulfing the world's financial indices. Panic across the markets spread, as whispers of the global economy teetering on the edge of another cataclysmic plunge were bandied across the media.
It was thus with considerable interest that some of the capital's leading businesspeople gathered for a business breakfast with one of the world's foremost economists, Jim O'Neill.
Predictably, there was not a free seat available as the Chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management took to the podium. Notes were hurriedly scrawled, and tweets flooded cyberspace as the man dubbed 'Mr BRICs' shared his insights to a captivated audience.
Yet amid warnings of sombre global trends, O'Neill expressed an optimistic outlook for Israeli business. Describing the economic climate there as "refreshing", he offered special praise for Israel's dynamic business community.
He noted how "well placed leading Israeli businesspeople are", and applauded "the mind-sets, and direct links to people in China."
The Goldman executive enjoyed his first trip to Israel in July this year. After taking a helicopter flight over Jerusalem, he spoke of his admiration at the burgeoning development in the ancient city beneath him.
Crucially, O'Neill believes Israel can benefit substantially from its sizeable expatriate population. He believes that this vibrant group of professionals offers both a competitive advantage, and incisive acumen, in the fluctuating global economy.
Their unique nous will prove increasingly important as the 'Growth 8' economies drive global consumer spending over the coming decade. Indeed, the crux of O'Neill's presentation focused on this apparent shift.
Financial indicators suggest that within the next five years, the BRIC countries will outstrip the United States in in their share of the global GDP. China alone will contribute more to the global GDP over the coming ten years than the economies of Europe and the United States combined.
More 'tangible' signs of this change may include an overhaul in the hierarchy of the International Monetary Fund, and significantly more investment in the Renminbi.
Interestingly, O'Neill suggested that if a new monetary union were to be formed, with strict criteria for admission (including a deficit of less than 3%, and inflation within a 2% threshold of the lowest ranked member), the 'Growth 8' economies would "satisfy" these requirements.
Newspapers may have been replete with dim prophecies for Greece, but O'Neill's chief concern was centred in the East.
"The single most important thing on a genuinely global scale is what happens to Chinese inflation".
O'Neill warned that if it fails to decline, "the world's economic challenges will be even worse than the ones that we are facing now."
Nevertheless, he declared China's domestic market to be the preferential destination for astute venture capital.
With Israeli industry so well-placed to conduct trade with China, this has the potential to usher in a lucrative era for trade between the two countries. Moreover, the famed dynamism of Israeli business may prove the ideal springboard to join in the 'Growth 8's' increasing prosperity.
When an economic doyen like Jim O'Neill talks, people listen. Even amateur 'armchair economists' are well aware of how unerringly accurate his predictions have been in the past. His optimistic forecast for Israel will undoubtedly stimulate interest. UK ISRAEL BUSINESS remains well placed to deliver its broad repertoire of expertise to innovative companies seeking to capitalize on this exciting potential.
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