Lapid and Kahlon.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Finance Ministry hopeful Moshe Kahlon on Thursday hit centrist rival Yair Lapid over the lack of construction in Kiryat Gat, bringing camera crews to an empty field on the outskirts of the city to show a dearth of cranes.
A shortage of apartment supply is the central problem in Israel’s high cost of housing, an uncomfortable fact for Lapid, who vowed to bring down prices as the last finance minister. Lapid has said that the bureaucratic fast-track “umbrella agreements” in certain places such as Kiryat Gat have led to thousands of housing starts that eventually will bring prices down.
In a televised election debate in February, Lapid said anyone who wanted proof simply needed to go see the construction themselves.
“Former finance minister Lapid told us about 7,000 units that are currently being built and that there are currently cranes and tractors in the field.
So here,” he said, indicating that the cameras should pan around the area, “there is nothing here, just a green field because of bureaucracy, because of a lack of a real solution for the housing crisis.”
According to the Bank of Israel, housing prices increased 4.5 percent in the year to December.
Kahlon struck a similar chord Wednesday, telling a financial conference in Tel Aviv that data from the ministries was not to be believed.
Indeed, data released by the Central Bureau of Statistics this week showed that construction starts fell 7.9% in 2014 to 43,625, well below the 50,000 the Construction Ministry has trumpeted in recent months. The Construction Ministry has argued that the CBS numbers will be revised upward as new data becomes available.
As CBS does not have numbers available for Kiryat Gat, Lapid may have been better served picking Rosh Ha’ayin as an example since, according to CBS, the number of construction starts there more-than-doubled from 1,078 in 2013 to 2,237 in 2014.
Kahlon also spoke out about a Calcalist survey that asked 150 of Israel’s leading CEOs and chairmen whom they preferred for finance minister and just 6% chose Kahlon.
“They don’t want me in the Treasury. They, the tycoons and the ‘officials’ who represent them. They, who earn a huge amount from the current system,” he said. Whereas he would come in and change the rules of the game, Kahlon said, the tycoons preferred keeping their friends in the Finance Ministry.
The survey found that 21% of the business leaders wanted the Zionist Union’s Manuel Trajtenberg to lead the ministry, followed by 12% for Lapid and 7% for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who himself served as finance minister in the past.