Finance Minister Yair Lapid published a question-and-answer document on how the new budget is expected to impact various sectors of society. The document aims to counter media reports according to which budget cuts will negatively impact the needy, special education students, and more.
Below is Lapid-the-journalist’s interview with Lapid-the-Finance-Minister:
What will happen regarding education?
The education budget has not been cut – it increased by 6.5 billion shekels.
We did not touch special education.
The book lending project has not been canceled.
We did not increase parent payments.
We added 100 million to scholarships for needy children.
We added 35 million to the Student Administration for support for Ethiopian students.
Did we hurt the needy?
We added 1.2 billion shekels to the healthcare budget.
0.5 billion to the welfare budget.
Of that, 200 million for children.
We added 500 million for Holocaust survivors.
We added 300 million for the ‘medicine basket’ [of medicine subsidized by government healthcare providers – ed.]
75 million for psychiatric wards.
We did not touch benefits for the elderly.
We did not touch the budget for the handicapped.
We transferred funds to the project to increase handicapped accessibility nationwide.
We did not touch the grants for socio-economically weak districts. 2.8 billion shekels will be transferred to them.
Is it true that we didn’t touch those in power?
The opposite is true.
We established the Andorn Committee to fight the tycoons’ haircuts [The committee is tasked with creating uniform criteria for debt forgiveness – ed.]
We established the Sheshinski Committee 2 to reexamine the rewards for national resources.
We increased corporate tax to 26.5%.
We increased the tax under the law to encourage investment of wealth.
We increased the tax on luxury goods – from cars to cigarettes.
We cut our own salary, that of the ministers and MKs, by 10%.
What about the big unions?
The Histadrut gave us 1.5 billion shekels, but nothing is off the table: not the ports’ unions, not the reform at the Electric Company.
And the hareidi Jews? Did you give in to them in the end?
Schools that do not teach the core curriculum will get just 35% funding.
The Nahari Law [which mandated 75% funding for recognized non-state schools – ed.] was cancelled, saving municipalities 400 million shekels.
The budget for yeshivas was cut by 450 million shekels.
200 million shekels will be spent on employment and job placement for hareidi Jews who join the workforce.
And what about the middle class? Didn’t you promise to protect the middle class?
I do not deny that the middle class was hurt, too. The budget cuts will cost Riki Cohen 385 shekels a month, that’s a lot of money, but it’s also an insurance policy against economic collapse. In exchange for that money Riki Cohen knows that she and her husband will not lose their jobs, that we will not end up like Spain with 32% unemployment, that instead of that she is part of a strong economy with a clear vision that puts the working man in the center.
Big words aside, what does that mean?
That we didn’t touch the workplace savings plans, because that’s the middle class’ small savings fund.
We added assistant daycare workers for infants and toddlers – for the sake of the middle class.
We passed the Open Skies reform – for the sake of the middle class.
We will unify the water tariffs and reduce the price by 5% - for the sake of the middle class.
We are implementing the suggestions of the Food Committee – yellow cheese will cost less, and hotdogs will cost less.
The train will reach Carmiel and Beit Shean – because the middle class lives outside the Tel Aviv region, too.
And what else?
The Equal Burden of Service Committee… We’re bringing about a revolution that led to the downfall of previous governments, and are healing what has been a bleeding wound at the center of Israeli society.
Another recommendation: go read about the fight against ‘black money.’ In a year from now people will tremble in fear at the thought of tax evasion.
What’s the point of everything I just said?
That we took an economy that was in trouble, and in a remarkably short time, got it back on track. It’s OK that there are complaints, but the people who are protesting us chose to stand and yell. We chose to be on the inside and to do the work.