It is unlikely a Likud-led government will impose more tax hikes next year,
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said Wednesday, although he refused to reveal
anything about the party’s budget program.
“It is impossible to say
anything with certainty, but as it appears now, we have already imposed enough
taxes and will not need to add more [in 2013], definitely nothing substantial,”
Steinitz told Army Radio.
He admitted it would not be easy to make the
NIS 14 billion in expenditure cuts required to meet next year’s 3 percent
budget-deficit target. However, he pointed out that the government of Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had inherited a NIS 18.5 billion “hole” when it was
elected in 2009, “and we managed with that.”
Interviewer Razi Barkai
pressured Steinitz to elaborate on the expenditure cuts, but the finance
minister insisted on speaking about growth. Referring to updated forecasts from
the Treasury and the Bank of Israel that see Israel’s gross domestic product
growing at 3.5% or 3.8% in 2013 on the back of offshore natural-gas production,
Steinitz said his party remains the only one focused on growth.
“I hear a
lot of parties talking about how they will divide the pie and which sectors they
will help,” he said, “but they don’t speak about the most basic things: how to
create growth, how to increase investments in hitech and the economy, how to
create hundreds of thousands of jobs as we have done.
“We are still the
only party that speaks about growth, about investments and about job creation,
because that is the name of the game, and that is what will determine Israel’s
destiny and the standing of its citizens.”
The Likud must win voters’
approval if it is to continue managing the economy after the January 22
election, and Steinitz refused to speculate on whether he would remain finance
minister in the event of a victory.
“Let’s say it is not impossible, but
I won’t add anything to that,” he said.
Labor chairwoman Shelly
Yacimovich was interviewed directly after Steinitz, and she accused him of
living in “another planet.” She refuted his claim that the Israeli economy has
performed better than the American and European economies in the past four
years, recommending that he ask every radio listener if their financial and job
situations have improved.
“The problem is not unemployment, the problem
is that people are working very hard and staying poor,” Yacimovich said, citing
a recent study that found that 65% of Israel’s poor are people who have
“Growth is a very good thing, but it means nothing if it is divided
only among the wealthiest one-thousandth of the population and does not trickle
down to the middle class and the poor,” she said.