Bill to boost capital’s economy passes preliminary reading

The bill, sponsored by MK Uri Ariel, passed the preliminary reading by a vote of 39-7, with wide support from coalition, opposition parties.

By REBECCA ANNA STOIL
January 13, 2011 05:52
1 minute read.
Back-dropped by the golden shrine of the Dome of t

jill biden old city jerusalem 311. (photo credit: AP)

 
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A bill that would grant Jerusalem preferential status as an area of top national priority for economic development passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset on Wednesday, hours after the Finance Committee issued an official call to the government to increase funding for the capital.

The bill, sponsored by MK Uri Ariel (National Union), passed the preliminary reading easily by a vote of 39-7, with wide support from coalition and opposition parties.

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The special status, which is currently enjoyed by over 240 communities in the Negev, the Galilee and the West Bank, carries with it a number of economic perks designed to make underdeveloped areas more attractive to investors and residents alike. The initial Knesset support indicates a promising start for the initiative, which would try to stimulate the country’s largest city.

Earlier in the day, the Finance Committee called on the prime minister and the Treasury to give grants to the capital to help it deal with its demographic change and the increase in demands placed on city hall. The committee also called on the government to reimburse the municipality for what it described as a decade of decline in government support funds for the city.

Committee chairman Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) said that no other country would allow the situation in its capital city to become so problematic.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat expressed optimism that the municipality would be able to engender a fundamental change in Jerusalem’s state, but said that the government must be willing to be a full partner to the city’s advancement.

In the last year, he explained, the government had granted residents over NIS 550 million in municipal tax (arnona) exemptions, while in the past decade, government contributions to the city budget had declined from 12.87 percent of the total budgetary demands in 2000 to a mere 5.14% in 2010. In real sums, the contribution fell from NIS 269m. to NIS 185m.

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