Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday committed to allocate NIS 400 million over the next two years for the treatment of children at risk as a means of fighting the problem of poverty.
"We must change the welfare policy in Israel and I have decided to handle two issues - children at risk and newborns until the age of three - which do not provide solutions to the entire problem of poverty in Israel, but do provide a basis for effective proactive treatment," said Olmert at the Globes Israel Business Conference in Tel Aviv. "We will implement the conclusions of the Schmidt Committee for handling at-risk children and allocate a total of NIS 400m until 2008 to help children living below the poverty line."
Olmert said he believed the treatment of children from birth until the age of three was the basis for solving the issue of poverty in Israel and would result in savings to the country millions of shekels years later.
The Prime Minister noted that about 50,000 children, or one-third of the 150,000 children born in Israel every year, were below the poverty line and classified as being at risk.
"In 2007, we will erect 20 holistic centers across the country, which will take care of 15,000 children at risk," he said.
Speaking about Israel's economy, Olmert said the country's economic situation was better than ever.
"This is the first year in the history of the State of Israel in which exports of goods and services, even excluding foreign aid, exceed imports by billions of dollars. We have more foreign currency reserves than ever. Israel's biggest financial dream, of reaching a positive payment balance, has come true this year," he said.