(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Former welfare and social services minister Meir Cohen (Yesh Atid) offered harsh words for Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) on Thursday, in the aftermath of the annual National Insurance Institute poverty report.
“I will remind Kahlon that in 2012 he was welfare minister at the time when [National Insurance Institute child] allotments were paid, so he should stop boasting and stop being a populist,” Cohen told Army Radio.
“Instead of taking NIS 10 billion and acting as a partner to lawless coalition agreements, he should simply lower his eyes and keep quiet. We know exactly what to do; [restoring] NIS 4b. a year is nothing,” he said.
Cohen spoke in response to Kahlon’s statement the previous day blaming Yesh Atid for the dismal statistics presented in the poverty report.
“The previous government is responsible for the increase in the rate of poverty,” Kahlon said on Wednesday following the release of the report.
“The cuts to child allotments is what brought a significant increase in the rate of poverty. We repaired this injustice in the current budget when we restored the child allotments [to previous levels] and added NIS 600 million for the elderly,” he said.
According to Kahlon, the cuts to the monthly NII child allotments made by Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, acting as finance minister in the last government, was one of the primary reasons for the increased poverty.
The NII report revealed that there were 1,709,300 people, accounting for 22% percent of the population, including 444,900 families and 776,500 children, living below the poverty line in 2014.
The report further found that the proportion of families with children living in poverty increased from 23.0% in 2013 to 23.3% in 2014, while poverty among children increased from 30.8% in 2013 to 31% in 2014.
The document’s author, Dr. Daniel Gottlieb, deputy director-general for research and planning at the NII, wrote that the increase was most likely due to the effects of the cut in child allotments in 2013.
“This year there was a continued rise in housing prices and rent and in the severity and depth of poverty, partly due to the reduction in child allowances, which influenced for the first time in 2014, an entire year’s income for families,” he wrote.
The report also cited the steps taken by the government to counter the high poverty rates.
It noted the work of the Committee to Fight Poverty, which was appointed by then-welfare minister Cohen, which issued recommendations in June 2014 on the actions required by the state to combat poverty in all aspects of life.
Cohen had made fighting poverty a central facet of his tenure as welfare minister.
The committee called to reduce the poverty rate by 40% to reach the OECD average of 11% within 10 years, at an estimated cost of NIS 7 billion.
The report stated that the only way to accomplish is to adopt and begin implementing all the recommendations within the next three to five years.
Yet despite the ambitious recommendations, the government was unable to allocate the budget to implement all the recommendations.
According to the report, only a few minor recommendations of the committee were implemented under the previous government, although more are set to take effect in 2016.
In addition, the report said that the government would return child allotments to the same level as two years ago. In fact, one of the first decisions made by the current government was to reinstate the child allotments cut under the previous government.