The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group often seen as an exclusive club of rich countries, voted unanimously on Monday to admit Israel. The admittance of Israel, along with two other new members (EU members Estonia and Slovenia) brings OECD membership to 34 countries. OECD membership rewards the many efforts by the three to reform their economies, including in such areas as combating corruption, protecting intellectual property rights and ensuring high standards of corporate governance. Those areas are also important factors used by The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal in calculating the annual Index of Economic Freedom rankings. Israel is ranked 5th in the Middle East/North Africa region and 44th overall out of 179 countries worldwide in the 2010 Index. Estonia is 16th and Slovenia is 61st.
Estonian growth, once the fastest in the former Soviet Union, slowed down after it signed regulation-heavy acquis communautaire – the body of the EU law accumulated thus far, to become a member of the European Union. And as Edmund Sanders reports in the Los Angeles Times the booming Israeli economy, now weaned from the socialist-influenced policies that in the 1980s brought 400% inflation and 60% income-tax brackets, is now growing despite the international financial slowdown. Debt is manageable, the currency is strong; Israel’s high-tech sector is admired worldwide.