March 4, 2018 / 1:21 PM / 7 months ago

IMF starts economic visit to Israel, to issue report on March 14

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund began its annual mission to Israel on Sunday and will issue a preliminary report on the economy on March 14, the Bank of Israel and Finance Ministry said.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves as he leaves a plenary session during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland January 25, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

During the visit, the IMF delegation will meet senior officials from the ministry and central bank, as well as business and union leaders and academics.

Last year, the IMF criticized Israel’s government for a looser fiscal policy and advised the central bank to hold the line on interest rates until inflation surfaces.

Craig Beaumont, the IMF’s mission chief for Israel, called it “regrettable” for the state to set a budget deficit target of 2.9 percent of gross domestic product instead of making further progress in reducing debt.

The IMF in 2018 projects Israel’s economy will grow 3.4 percent, in line with most other estimates.

The ministry again in 2019 set a budget deficit target of 2.9 percent of GDP, while the Bank of Israel last week held its benchmark interest rate at 0.1 percent for the 32nd straight time. The rate is expected to remain unchanged until at least the fourth quarter of 2018 when a hike is forecast.

Reporting by Steven Scheer, Editing by Tova Cohen

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