Small- and medium-sized businesses suffering in the aftermath of the conflict in the North are either not aware of the launch of State- guaranteed loans or lack the business knowledge needed to take advantage of preferential solutions available to help them out of their plight, the first report submitted to Eli Yishai, Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor showed. "The main problem of business owners in the North is the lack of cash flows, while obligations and debts are mounting," noted MK Ehud Yatom, who met up with business owners and corporations in his report. "The economic situation of business owners in the North requires immediate help and attention." Yatom is responsible for aiding the campaign to bring the North back to normal by mapping out the needs and immediate problems that have arisen because of the war, while also offering solutions, in particular for small businesses. The report found that the availability of State-guaranteed loan funds, which have been established to provide a partial solution for the lack of cash, have not trickled down to the ground-level and thus are not being considered by business owners seeking solutions for their situation. Secondly, many business owners don't have the business knowledge or economic understanding needed to get themselves out of the economic situation they are caught in, according to Yatom. "In light of the need to increase profits among businesses in the North, I suggest a temporary cancellation of value-added tax for up to one year," said Yatom. "This measure would increase business' profits by 15.5 percent." Furthermore Yatom suggested a cooperation between the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor and credit card institutes, which would give businesses in the North significant discounts on charges for a period of six months - a measure he believes would increase profits by 2%. On Monday, the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce announced the launch of a new forum that will represent the interests of small- and medium-sized businesses across all sectors. Meanwhile, the Histadrut Labor Federation has put forward a proposal for a fund that would provide assistance to the residents of the North and Sderot. The fund would include a donation of the equivalent of one day's salary by all workers living south of Haifa. The Histadrut estimated that the fund could total over half-a-billion shekels. Separately, first calculations by the Ministry of Agriculture estimated that indirect costs due to a month of war in the North have amounted to NIS 300m. in addition to the NIS 15m. in direct costs. The main damage of about NIS 200m. was suffered by growers of summer fruits such as nectarines, apples, pears and plums. The majority of the summer fruits were not picked or remained on the ground. Also, at the Knesset Finance Committee on Monday, the Ministry of Health asked for a NIS 1 billion budget supplement to build underground hospitalization services for treating casualties in the event of renewed hostilities or any future war.