Prime Minister Ariel Sharon intends to "concentrate special efforts" on the country's socio-economic issues in the coming years, he told the annual assembly of Israeli managers Thursday.
"Economic inequality in our country has been increasing for many years, and we are committed to addressing this. The government will dedicate great efforts to the struggle against poverty and to narrowing social disparities," he said, adding that "we have dedicated much funding to this in the 2006 budget."
Sharon said that he has established a "ministerial team" under his direction, including Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres and Acting Finance Minister Ehud Olmert, "in order to formulate a thorough program and determine policy to deal with poverty."
A professional commission assisting the ministers, headed by Finance Ministry Director-General Yossi Bachar, has already begun work and will soon present its conclusions and recommendations, he said.
"The accelerated development of transportation over the past few years, bringing the periphery closer to the center, and the educational reform bringing promise of a better and more equal opportunity for all the children in Israel are also, in my eyes, strategic steps taken in the struggle against poverty," Sharon said.
Through the disengagement from Gaza and economic policy, "we have renewed and enlarged foreign investment in Israel, brought about a significant rise in exports and tourism, and brought down the unemployment rate," he said.
Sharon also praised efforts to bring more tourists to Israel, saying that every addition of one million tourists coming to the country creates 40,000 jobs for local workers.