Friday, November 14, 2008

Huldai reelected in Tel Aviv: city goes local

Huldai on his blog lays out his views and experience [HE]

With all the turmoil in the world and an economic tsunami about to hit our fragile shores, Tel Aviv reelected Ron Huldai on a purely local message: Tel Aviv is for everyone and not just the big businesses and the high price restaurants (Ha'aretz quotes Huldai's campaign manager saying: "Tel Aviv is not just [the bohemian] Rothschild Boulevard"). Ha'aretz's article on the results [] mentioned the opposition's mix on the city council. It seems like Tel Avivians are turning inward. This happens to most people who are beaten up by outside forces. Israel is just starting to feel the shock waves of the world's financial explosions. There are reports of lay-offs in the services and hi-tech sectors.

Tel Aviv went on a repair spree, I guess some of it had to do with the elections. Once in five years the street talks goes, we get a few new sidewalks and streets. But more than that, the downturn in the financial services sector is not hitting Tel Aviv anywhere as bad as probably London, New York, or even Hong Kong. Partly because the Israeli economy has been in a slow recovery from 2002. Partly because the building industry as a whole has not followed US banks and investment institutions with the sub-prime to bond scheme.

Tel Aviv 100 index down 50% in 12 months

The Israeli hi-tech sector is still very dependent on the American financial world for seed start-up investment. Some of the smaller and weaker American venture capital firms have closed their operations in Israel. The large American companies with factories or development centers in Israel are also closing or at least laying off people. It is much easier for a company with headquarters in Cleveland or San Jose to cut costs in Israel and keep their image intact. But Israelis are not crying over this situation. The people who work for American companies have known for years that with the benefits of higher salaries and better work comes the risk of a fall in the US costing their jobs. Don't get me wrong, nobody is really happy about it, but you don't see food riots either. Just a gloomy mood all around and slightly emptier restaurants and cafes.

But there is a good news here too. With the slowdown in financial and hi-tech sectors there is more local focus. This is what the Huldai vote says. Tel Aviv can still look and feel good for the locals. There is still so much to fix, build, and enjoy without the glitzy American attitude. Let's hope that this is not going to take too long to "fix". Just like everyone around the world, Tel Avivians are looking to see what Obama and the new democratic congress is going to do about the American financial excesses (or should I say over-exuberance Dr. Greenspan?), maybe we will be wiser and less greedy in the long run? What do you think ? ? ? Read More...