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'Gov’t should implement housing reforms'
By NADAV SHEMER
07/06/2012
Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg estimated that the government has adopted more than two-thirds of his committee’s proposals.
 
Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg estimated Thursday that the government has adopted more than two-thirds of his committee’s proposals on socioeconomic issues, but he expressed regret over its lack of enthusiasm for the report’s housing chapter.

“My housing recommendations were supposed to provide the means and incentives to build small apartments for long-term rent in high-demand areas. This is something that is really missing in Israel,” he said at a Tel Aviv University seminar on global challenges.

“You can play with the market, with the interest rate and the mortgages, which are all important,” Trajtenberg said.

“But in the end you need to create supply... and that is not happening, or it is happening too slowly.”

The Trajtenberg Committee released its final report last September, 50 days after the government established the committee in response to massive public protests over socioeconomic issues. The report recommended allocating NIS 60 billion toward implementing reforms in four areas: housing, education, competition and taxation.

Trajtenberg said he was pleased that the government has adopted most of the report. There was a common misconception among the general public that the committee had not achieved anything, he said, citing income-tax reform, the introduction of free early childhood education and the granting of more powers to the Antitrust Authority as the three recommendations he was most proud of.

However, he pointed out that the 2 percent flat tax for high-income earners has still not been implemented, adding: “To this day nobody has given me a good explanation why that is the case – not the prime minister, nor the finance minister, nor the Knesset.”

Addressing the subject of the seminar, “Governing democracies in a time of global crisis,” Trajtenberg said he believed it was rising inequality, rather than growing global uncertainty, that was the root cause of the Israeli protest movement. He predicted that the magnitude of last year’s protests would not be matched by similar protests planned for this summer.

But Trajtenberg praised last year’s protests for “two huge achievements”: Firstly, it changed Israeli public discourse and put the spotlight on socioeconomic issues; secondly, they identified an issue on which people living in Tel Aviv, the peripheral cities and the other side of the Green Line could all unite.
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