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(photo credit: Courtesy Photo)
The government, the Manufacturers' Association and the Histadrut Labor Federation all agreed that there is a dire need for the commitment of the government to tackle socioeconomic issues, but much doubt exists as to whether the newly formed socioeconomic council will succeed in making a change.
"The government is committed to the progress of social issues." said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the "Postwar Israel: What next?" conference organized by the Israel Management Center. "I have asked the National Council for Economics and Society to present a plan by mid-2007, which will deal with problems of the social crisis including employment, children in danger and education."
Also speaking at the conference, Benny Gaon, president of investment house Gaon Holdings urged the prime minister to turn the promises on which this government was not long ago elected into reality. "This is the time, Olmert to look into the eyes of pensioners, single mothers and sick people and to make the promises come true."
Last Sunday, the cabinet approved the establishment of a National Economics Council headed by Prof. Manuel Trachtenberg, which is subject directly to the prime minister's office. The council's work is to consolidate policy initiatives that promote economic growth, while narrowing social gaps.
"Alarming numbers in this year's poverty report are no coincidence but a sign of the lack of leadership and target setting for tackling socioeconomic issues," Trachtenberg said. "Economic growth can not be separated from social issues and thus the new council is a socioeconomic council."
Discussing the question of how the national socioeconomic council should be operated, the Histadrut and the Manufacturers' Association cast much doubt over the effectiveness of the new council to bring about pragmatic change.
"The question is whether this council will not just be one more council that acts as a body to the government for advice and discussion on how to pass the budget," said Shraga Brosh, President of the Manufacturers' Association. "What is needed is a council that proposes how to accomplish concrete targets for socioeconomic policy like the Bank of Israel has monetary policy targets."
Brosh warned, however, that the establishment of the socioeconomic council was doomed to fail if the government did not act in cooperation but tried to impose their position onto the employers and the Histadrut.
"Over the past 10 years the economy lost over 15 million working days because of 600 strikes," said Brosh. "As a result of the cooperation with Ofer Eini [chairman of the Histadrut] we have managed last year to bring down the number of lost working days by 80 percent."