The Government's Investment Center lacks the funding to provide grants for over 400 projects that have met its investment criteria, the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry said Tuesday.
"Because of the lack of budget we have accumulated 400 requests for assistance that met our criteria but which we were unable to approve over the years," the ministry said. "These requests have a NIS 10 billion combined investment budget and would have added around 14,000 new jobs to the periphery."
In 2006, the center approved grants for 117 projects with combined budgets of about NIS 540 million, the ministry reported. The center's available funds for grants was around NIS 130m. for 2006, and was about the same for this year, a ministry spokesperson said. The center received 206 requests during the year with budgets of $1.1b., compared to the 199 requests in 2005 needing a budget of $1.4b.
The Government provides grants through the Investment Center as a means of giving incentive to industry to invest in development projects in Israel, in particular the underdeveloped periphery areas.
The average amount given as grants last year was $5m. with 95% of approved projects being for developments in Area A, which covers the Galilee, Jordan Valley, the Negev, and Jerusalem for hi-tech companies only. Area B, where the remaining 5% of projects were headed, includes the Lower Galilee and Northern Negev .
Approximately 33% of the approved projects had injections of foreign capital making up for $19m., or 27%, of the center's total investments for the year.
Some of the larger projects the center helped fund included a telephone support and service center in Safed which is expected to hire 100 people.
Over the last five years, the ministry said its investments have created some 3,150 jobs in the periphery. Last year, the center also helped seven factories move to the periphery, which will create some 400 jobs.
"The past year was a very dynamic one for the Investment Center," said Hezi Zaieg, general manager of the center.
"Updates made to the investment encouragement law, the new investment tracks added and general changes made to the criterion required for grants, allows the center to present a basket of attractive benefits to local enterprises and foreign investors comparable to those given by any other countries."