Wrong Stats Used to Blame Bibi

Statistics and damn lies: Kadima has blamed Netanyahu for large pension fund losses. A government official says the numbers are exaggerated.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu,

Kadima blames Bibi for fund losses
Kadima blames Bibi for fund losses
Israel News Photo: (Flash 90)

Kadima party officials, with support from part of the Israeli media, have blamed Binyamin Netanyahu for reportedly large pension fund losses. As Finance Minister in the Sharon government, he originated an economic reform policy that is widely credited with catapulting the Israeli economy to one of the strongest and most stable in the world before the current global financial crisis.

 

The sudden global financial tidal wave resulting from the collapse of part of the financial structure in the United States caused major Tel Aviv Stock Exchange indices to drop by 50 percent the past several months, in tandem with virtually every other world market.

 

The resulting drop in the net worth of pension funds, which invest a part of their money in stocks, prompted the Histadrut national labor union to threaten a general strike because Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On's (Kadima) $5 billion emergency stimulus plan did not protect the funds from further losses.

 

The political fallout over the pension funds and the Histadrut threat, coming at the start of an election campaign, has forced Finance Minister Bar-On to backtrack and propose a partial "safety net" that will protect funds for people aged 60 and over.

 

However, the reported losses of 20 percent do not take into account two factors: first, the loss comes after more than five years of far greater grains. Secondly, the reported losses are not true, according to Yadin Antebi, Finance Ministry commissioner of capital markets.

 

The entire public debate about the losses to long-term savings is based on a skewed image. First, people should learn the facts, urges one public official who knows them - Yadin Antebi, the commissioner of capital markets, insurance and savings at the Finance Ministry.

 

"The pension funds have lost less than 10%," he said at an economic summit sponsored by Bank Leumi and TheMarker, a business website which reported his comments.

 

Antebi added that people have been throwing around figures such as "tens of percent, confirming a "level of panic...and [the] degree the public debate relies on errors."

 

Kadima and Labor party leaders pounced on the opportunity to blame Likud chairman and Knesset Member Netanyahu for the losses, painting a picture of old people being left without money for which they had worked all their lives.

 

Labor party chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak told a party caucus, "We all remember the lack of responsibility shown in the transfer of pensions to the stock market."

 

Kadima officials are trying to portray Netanyahu as a man who took pensions away from workers. The party is planning a campaign strategy based on the slogan "Kadima: what's good for the country." It is similar to the pre-1929 statement made by Charles E. Wilson, president General Motors and later a Secretary of Defense. He said, "What's good for General Motors is good for the country."

The huge automaker now is teetering on bankruptcy.

 

The political fallout over the pension funds and the Histadrut threat, coming at the start of an election campaign, has forced Finance Minister Bar-On to backtrack and propose a partial "safety net" that will protect funds for people aged 60 and over.

  

Market indices early Monday afternoon were up by 1.5-3 percent, and the shekel-dollar rate was steady around the 4.00 level.



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