Ahead of August 12's cabinet vote on the draft of the 2008 state budget, the Galilee Development Company is fighting the government's expected decision to slash investment in the northern Galilee and the Golan, funding that has already dropped considerably over the past decade.
"Should the cabinet decide to cut the Galilee's and Golan's investment funding, it will mean that manufacturers in the periphery and along the northern confrontation line will not only be unable to develop and grow their factories, but will have difficulty in maintaining their current production lines," said Achikam Barlevi, director-general of the Galilee Development Company.
The company is a member of the Manufacturers Association of Israel and represents some 20,000 workers in private and kibbutz industries across the northern Galilee and Golan. The Galilee Development Company, whose funding is controlled by the Industry, Trade and Labor's Investment Center, has seen state investment area companies drop from NIS 1.3 billion in 1997 to NIS 930 million in 2000 to its current level of NIS 100m., with plans in the works to eliminate northern enterprise funding completely, according to the company.
The decrease in funding from the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry has come as a result of a cabinet decision to slash that ministry's Investment Center budget, severely reducing investment in such companies across the country.
"The government has asked us to strengthen the country's borders by settling people in the North and by providing them with jobs. How does the government expect us to improve the economic situation in the North and also stop people from moving to other regions of the country if they are not willing to invest in us?" Barlevi asked. "It is an obligation of the government to help strengthen the North and barely a year after the Second Lebanon War, they are forgetting us."
According to Barlevi, 23 percent of Israel's industry is located in the periphery, while only 14% is in the Central region. Also, he said, the majority of requests for funding have come from northern businesses, and those investments that have been made have on the whole generated substantial returns.
"The 2008 budget must include at least NIS 500m. for northern company investments," said Barlevi. "If the government cuts our investment funding it will spell death for the region's businesses."