Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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18 Adar 5764 - March 11, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Bituach Leumi Accuses State of Neglecting Citizens
by G. Kleiman

New Bituach Leumi Director-General Yigal Ben-Shalom launched an unprecedented attack against Finance Ministry officials and their attitude toward Bituach Leumi. Noting Minister- without-Portfolio at the Treasury Meir Sheetrit's attack on its policy he said, "The Finance Ministry would like to weaken Bituach Leumi's standing and strength and transform it into a source of income for the Ministry." Ben-Shalom made his remarks at a conference for accountants at the Dead Sea.

According to Ben-Shalom, the series legislative changes initiated by the Treasury in recent years that affect Bituach Leumi have a single, aggregate meaning: the state is no longer responsible for the social security of its citizens. "In order to survive, the citizens of the state must look out for themselves," he said, "but the problem is they can't."

He promised to work during his term as director-general to publish a model based on Bituach Leumi data that would allow decision-makers to predict the repercussions of the dimensions of poverty and income disparity rather than seeing the poverty figures as mere updates from two years earlier now that the damage has already been done. "The model will be presented to the government when the state budget is submitted. It is important for government ministers to set their priorities for the state budget with an awareness of the social repercussions due to the inequity and poverty forecasted in the relevant budget year."

Ben-Shalom claims that in the coming three years Bituach Leumi will be forced to make up from within for the recently- announced 1.5 percent reduction in Bituach Leumi payments, which will translate into another NIS 3 billion (about $600 million) in the State budget. According to a Bituach Leumi analysis, employers will have to pay a total of NIS 300 million ($60 million) for their workers, but meanwhile the Finance Ministry is granting employers benefits worth a total of NIS 3 billion ($600 million), or 10 times their tax burden.

On the subject of cuts in Children's Allowances and old-age benefits Ben-Shalom said, "It is unconscionable that at the swing of an ax, without public deliberation, due consideration, and consulting with the Institute, decisions are made to cut billions of shekels that have an effect on the citizens of the state. This is [indicative] of improper administration."

During the conference Ben-Shalom announced he would demand an increase in old-age benefits with supplementary income for every elderly person who does not receive NIS 2,200 in total monthly income. This amount is the bare minimum subsistence level for single people. These payments will be derived by moving up the 4 percent cut in old-age benefits. "Just as tax reforms can be brought forward for the sake of the middle class, so too is it possible to bring forward the cut in order to assist the lower classes. Furthermore according to predictions a 2 percent growth rate is expected in the coming year . . . The fruits of growth should reach not just the top income brackets but also the weak members of society who have been suffering for several long years because of the cuts."


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