Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General
Israel, 5th June 2012
(As prepared for delivery)
Minister Simhon, Ladies and Gentlemen, members of the press,
I am delighted to be back in Jerusalem launching our newest OECD Report on Israel.
Let me begin by congratulating Israel for its strong economic performance over recent years. With output growth of 4.8% in 2011, and projections for an expansion of 3.2% in 2012 and 3.6% in 2013, Israel is performing rather well in today’s challenging global economic environment.
I would also like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for the very active role that Israel has played in the OECD since joining our community two years ago. Israel has a wealth of experience and expertise to share with other governments, in particular in promoting growth through start-ups and innovation. We are delighted that Israel is taking a proactive approach to doing so through the committees of the OECD and many other fora.
However, let us not ignore that, like all other countries, Israel also faces some pressing economic and social challenges. That is why it is vital that Israel continues to draw on the analysis, recommendations and best practices offered by the OECD and its Member and partner countries.
I am therefore very pleased to be launching today this Report entitled “Clean-Tech Clustering as an Engine for Local Development: The Negev Region”.
A vision for clean tech as an engine for local development in the Negev
Sure, this is a rather long and convoluted title, but, put simply, this Report offers one of Israel’s two priority regions for economic development, the Negev, a vision for growth. It does so by seeking to exploit some of the regions’ existing strengths and competitive advantages.
The Negev’s strengths include a niche in research, demonstration and testing in renewable energies and water efficiency. With 50 clean-tech businesses, 4 technological incubators, about one-third of Israel’s clean-tech research capacity, coupled with appropriate natural resources in land and solar radiation, this is one serious comparative advantage!
A triple dividend for the Negev and Israel
The Negev’s potential is there to be exploited and expanded. A clean-tech cluster offers a triple dividend not only for the Negev, but also for the rest of Israel, which will gain from both economic development and the strengthening of the wider Israeli clean-tech industry.
- First, by promoting green growth through the more efficient use of natural resources and new clean-tech growth opportunities. This is something we are talking a lot about in the G20 with considerable support from the OECD.
- Second, by promoting regional development in a priority region for Israel; and
- Third, by enhancing social inclusion through new skills and employment opportunities for disadvantaged groups, including the region’s Bedouin population.
At the OECD, we say that in order to achieve strong, sustainable and inclusive growth governments need to “Go Structural”, “Go Social” and “Go Green”. Well, the approach advocated in this Report offers all three. I need not say more!
Acting on the vision: A six-pillar strategy
But, in the end, the Report is only the beginning.
Our main message is that Israel should take concerted action to fill a number of remaining gaps. This requires both investments in key areas and making the right connections with other clean-tech clusters nationally and internationally.
The Report sets out a six-pillar strategy for the development of clean-tech cluster activity in the Negev. The actions include targeted investments in centres of research excellence, the creation of a clean-tech technology validation centre, the promotion of collaborative innovation projects, and local green public procurement and regulation.
Two other actions are also critical:
- First, the transformation of Eilat into Israel’s model “green city”, where green building and eco-efficiency retrofitting can be piloted, providing training and employment opportunities to the low skilled.
- Second, the creation of a regional cluster management organisation that will take responsibility for mapping the sector and its main actors, co-ordinate strategies, make the necessary innovation, investment and human capital connections, and increase the visibility of Negev clean-tech nationally and internationally.
Ladies and gentleman,
This OECD Report offers a vision for the Negev region that has the potential to deliver real and tangible benefits for regional development, green growth and social inclusion. This in turn offers wider benefits for Israel as a whole.
I encourage the government to adapt the existing investments and policy instruments available for regional and clean-tech development to achieve this vision and deliver stronger, fairer and cleaner growth.