VIDEO - Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer said Wednesday he was leaving the central bank in a very good shape after achieving most of the goals he had set for himself.
"Why am I leaving? Eight years is a long time," Fischer said during a press conference he convened in Jerusalem to explain the reasons for his decision to step down
two years before the end of his second five-year term.
He later added, "I knew that if I stepped down a week before the elections,
people would say it was political.
"I feel that I utilized this role to the fullest, and my family lives far away. We plan to divide our lives between Israel
and the United States," said Fischer, who lives with his wife Rhoda in Herzliya while their three sons reside in the US.
'Many goals achieved'
"I had a list of goals in front of me, and many of them have been achieved, including the Bank of Israel Law which was passed by the Knesset, the bank workers' wage agreement with the Treasury, the Bank of Israel's reorganization and many other things we have accomplished in the past eight years.
"I am leaving the bank in a very good shape. The new system of corporation governing within the institution is very strong. There is an executive council with a chairman, which will take care of the bank's administrative management, and the governor will not be involved in this issues. And we have the Monetary Committee, with three professors who are not part of the bank, which ensures that we don't make any mistakes.
Stanley Fischer. 'Serious challenges ahead' (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
"I am also leaving the economy in a good shape, but with serious challenges. The challenges are to pass a budget which will allow a reasonably limited deficit and handling bureaucracy problems.
"It's a fact, a troubling fact, that in the past few years Israel's average level in international surveys has gone down. We were in the 26th place six years ago, and now we're in the 38th place. It's not because the situation here deteriorated, but because the situation elsewhere improved. But in a competitive economy there is competition with other countries, and so problems in the decision making system in Israel must be dealt with. We saw it happen in many measures taken by the government in terms of housing prices."
Referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
Fischer said "I had a very tight relationship with the Israeli prime ministers throughout the past eight years, but particularly with the current prime minister, who was the finance minister and was in fact responsible for the proposal to appoint me. He is a person who understands economy, who was responsible for the stable policy and reforms in 2003, which is one of the foundations of the economy's good activity in the past years."
'Tried to improve quality of public discourse'
Fischer said he planns to remain active in public life. "I have no plans for the future, I have no new role, but I plan to be involved in public life in Israel and I hope my voice will still be heard in the public discourse in Israel. Israel is my second home, and I don’t know if it's lesser than the first one."
Asked whether he was leaving due to his lack of faith in the prime minister and finance minister's policy, Fischer replied: "I have faith in what they want to achieve. I know that the budget issue is at the top of the list, and they know that they have to deal with it seriously, and I know it will be dealt with seriously."
Fischer said he had turned down offers to serve as finance minister several times in the past.
Asked what he hadn't succeeded in doing during his term, Fischer said: "I didn't find the time to renovate the Bank of Israel building. I don't think the wage agreement was perfect, and now we are having trouble recruiting sufficiently professional workers. We will have to fix that. I also intended on improving the quality of the public discourse in Israel, and I am not sure whether I succeeded."
Addressing the housing market,
Fischer said: "I hope the government increases the supply. As long as the building pace was 40,000 apartments a year, we could have handled our side – the demand. But now that it has dropped to 30,000, it's hard to handle. We won't let it get out of control, and if it demands further steps – we'll take them. But we want to have something more convincing in terms of supply."
Fischer, who has been serving as the central bank chief since May 2005, informed Prime Minister Netanyahu on Tuesday of his decision to leave on June 30.