MK Nissan Slomiansky said on Monday that if the committee to fight poverty would not operate within a budgetary framework, its deliberations would be in vain.
He made these remarks during a special meeting of the Finance Committee intended to discuss the lack of a budget for the implementation of the recommendations of the Welfare and Social Services Ministry’s Fight against Poverty Committee, chaired by Eli Alalouf. However, representatives from the Treasury did not attend the meeting, and so the debate on the budgetary issue was postponed.
The discussion was initiated by MK Orly Levy-Abecassis (Yisrael Beytenu), MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz), MK Stav Shaffir (Labor) and MK Dov Henin (Hadash), who expressed their concern with the Alalouf committee’s lack of legitimacy, due to an absence of any budgetary framework.
The MKs criticized the absence of the Finance Ministry and said it showed “contempt” towards members of Knesset, towards the Alalouf committee and towards citizens.
Alalouf responded to the criticism and said, “We were afraid that nobody would pay us attention, but rather, we have full cooperation with the Finance Ministry.”
He said that when the time comes the committee would present “serious and reasonable recommendations.”
As discussion continued, the committee addressed the heart of the matter – how the Committee to Fight Poverty intends to eradicate poverty.
“We are satisfied in dealing with poverty; instead, we need to treat it at the root of the problem and prevent poverty,” said Slomiansky.
Shaffir addressed Alalouf directly and said, “My worry is that you will turn into Mr. Trajtenberg 2 – you will stand at the head of a worthy committee, will reach important conclusions, and the government will simply be able to ignore you like they did to Trajtenberg the past two years.
A committee that did not decide in advance the scope of its responsibilities, the boundaries of its activities, the financial framework in which it operates, the source of its funding – all these conditions lead to one place: dissolving and ignoring.”
Levy-Abecassis said that the committee must act concurrently in two ways in order to eradicate poverty, “On the one hand, prevention from early childhood, and on the other, treatment of struggling populations.”
She added: “Today, disadvantaged populations spend most of their money on housing – everything starts with a roof. The Israeli public is fighting a war of survival, and life goes on as usual. The Alalouf committee must allow equal opportunity for the general public, and give every child a fair and equal development – and not just according to what their parents could provide. Preventing the next tragedy is upon us, and we must give a boost to the committee and thus bring economic gain and, even more importantly, social gain to the state of Israel.”
MK Gilon said the problems within the state are due to an incorrect “distribution of the budgetary pie.”
“In terms of distribution, for years those who have more, receive more, and those who have less, received less. The discussion is with the state treasury, how from tax payments do we fund transfers in a better way? This is the only way to solve poverty: through the budgets,” he said.
MK Henin said that the lack of a budget forces the committee to work “modestly” without really tackling the issues it would like to address.
“The committee is on a predetermined path,” Henin said, “in which the most important question eludes it: national priorities, and how to really eradicate poverty? We need to expand public housing. The root cause of poverty is what is happening in the labor market. Real wages in Israel are eroding and therefore the cost of living is unbearable.”
Alalouf addressed the committee and presented a summary of the key issues learned to date: “Of the issues that have come up, negative income tax, treatment of contract workers, enforcement of existing laws on labor issues which are currently not enforced and more. Obviously it will end with a budgetary framework, but I want to discuss the principles,” he said.
“Thorough investigation is required of the National Insurance Institute,” he said. “One of the obvious recommendations is that all issues of allowances will be examined, and if there will be a need to open a budget for 2015. Who decided and why that a child benefit is NIS 140? For too many years the NII has been injured, and now we need to worry and act to strengthen it.”
Alalouf also said he had recently had a meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and “came out encouraged.” He said Netanyahu promised to bring the recommendations to the government table once they were approved by Welfare and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen.
Slomiansky said at the opening of the meeting that the current discussion was the first of many, and that in the coming weeks additional debates surrounding the budgetary framework would take place with representatives from the Finance Ministry.