The Finance Ministry on Tuesday afternoon presented a conservative 1% growth estimate for 2003.

Finance Minister Silvan Shalom and top treasury clerks presented the economic growth estimate to the prime minister, Ariel Sharon, ahead of a debate on the budget for next year.

Some treasury officials estimate that the economy will grow next year between 1% to 2%, but the minister decided to err on the side of caution.

The Bank of Israel had called on the treasury to adopt a conservative estimate of zero to 1% growth for 2003.

Last year the minister was soundly criticized after submitting an overly optimistic growth estimate, of 4%, for 2002. The budget had to be redrawn based on more conservative figures, including of the state's revenues from taxes.