Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Moshe Kahlon spent his first days leading the Finance Ministry preparing a list of reforms he says will help the everyday Israeli by increasing competition.
“My world view says the individual is at the center. The economy is there to serve the individual,” he said Monday after his first staff meetings at the Treasury as Finance Minister.
There are plans ready-to-go to address lack of competition, he said.
“If we manage to advance 15 percent of them, the economic situation in the country will improve,” he said. “Needless to say, but we are committed to growth, we are committed to increasing the size of the pie, to helping business and benefiting the citizens of Israel.”
Kahlon campaigned on the promise of increasing competition and reforming sectors such as housing and banking.
The ones hit hardest by concentrated markets, he said, are the weak.
Beyond trying to push through tough reforms, Kahlon has the unenviable task of having to figure out how to pay for the billions of shekels promised to parties in the coalition agreements.
But on Sunday, after his first full day in the ministry, Kahlon came out in defense of at least one of the deals: increased child allotments demanded by the ultra-Orthodox parties.
“During the negotiations, we were attacked about the child allotments and I’m telling you here: I support child allotments. I am not prepared that, in a country in which I am a minister, that one child will eat and the other will watch him, hungry. Not on my watch,” Kahlon said.
The coalition undid a policy put in place by Kahlon’s predecessor Yair Lapid, who had cut allotments to a flat rate. Now, as before Lapid’s tenure, the government subsidy increases for every subsequent child, meaning the benefit particularly helps large families common in the Arab and ultra-Orthodox sectors. The reversal is estimated to cost about NIS 2.75 billion.
Lapid’s cut was intended, in part, to push more ultra-Orthodox into the labor force, a point Kahlon echoed.
“People need to work and make a decent living. People need to get home with a smile and go out with a smile,” he said immediately after his statement on allotments.
Meanwhile, over at the Economy Ministry, its new leader Arye Deri announced that he would be bringing Itzik Elrov on board to advise the minister on cost-of-living issues.
Elrov was at the forefront of the 2011 cottage-cheese protests, which laid the groundwork for the massive social protests that summer. He began the Facebook group encouraging people to boycott cottage cheese, which had become very expensive in a short period of time.
Elrov will take on the new role in the coming days, according to the ministry.