Netanyahu wants Helpman as next BoI Governor

Harvard Professor Elhanan Helpman is reluctant to take the post.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to press Prof. Elhanan Helpman, who was educated in Israel and has taught here, into accepting the job of Governor of the Bank of Israel. At the same time, sources inform "Globes," Netanyahu is continuing to look for a suitable candidate to succeed Prof. Stanley Fischer who steps down at the end of the month.

Helpman is Galen L. Stone Professor of International Trade at Harvard University and a Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. He is Netanyahu's preferred candidate but has informed the Israeli prime minister both orally and in writing that he is not prepared to take the job. Helpman is currently in Israel to take part in the farewell conference for Fischer. Sources close to Netanyahu insist that the last word has not yet been said on Helpman's possible appointment, and it is hoped that he will reconsider out of "Zionist" motives and the possibility of "leading the economy into faster growth."

This is the second time that Netanyahu has offered the job to Helpman. The first was when David Klein stepped down as Governor when Netanyahu was Minister of Finance. It was only after Helpman refused that then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Netanyahu offered the job to Fischer.

Helpman's book "The Mystery of Economic Growth" that was published in 2004 by Harvard University (and translated into Hebrew in 2008) is an influence on Netanyahu, who tended to quote it when he was finance minister.

Helpman's refusal - he is considered one of the world's 25 most respected and oft-quoted macroeconomists and he is considered a candidate for a Nobel Prize - has been consistent over the years. The belief is that one reason for his refusal is that he feels that taking up the appointment could ruin his chances of a Nobel Prize. He therefore, according to his friends, prefers to remain in the academic world.

There is also the belief that after Fischer the public is weary of the "personal US import" idea and such a successor would have an even harder and more challenging time than Fischer.

Fischer himself has been heard saying more than once in the past that if Helpman wanted the job, he would be happy to step aside.

In the past few days Netanyahu has been holding talks with senior figures in the world of economics who have been in Israel for Fischer's farewell conference and President Shimon Peres's 90th birthday. These include European Central Bank head Mario Draghi and former US Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers. Both stressed the importance of a swift appointment to replace Fischer so that there can be a smoother transition before Fischer leaves.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on June 19, 2013

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2013

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