silvan shalom 248 88 aj.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The first reading of the 2008 budget was passed in the Knesset plenum Wednesday night by a majority of 59 to 29.
The vote came after a debate that lasted long into the night, with MKs criticizing the dearth of funds slated to be diverted to social issues.
"This is a responsible budget that provides answers to security needs and will spearhead structural changes in the economy," Finance Minister Roni Bar-On told the plenum before the vote.
"Israel must embrace budgetary responsibility," he pleaded.
"The budget shows a 1.7% increase in governmental spending, and an additional NIS 1.2 billion that we have saved in interest payments on the reduced national debt," he said, adding that "in a free-market world, in a world of transparency one cannot espouse artificial solutions.
Bar-On warned that budging from the government's budgetary objectives would be a "grievous" mistake.
Former finance minister MK Silvan Shalom (Likud) insisted that the coming year's budget would be no different from previous ones.
"In 2006 they said 'this is a Bibi (Binyamin Netanyahu) budget,' and now we have been served with the 2007 and 2008 budgets, and what's the message?" he asked. "We were told that we would be given a budget with a social message. Has this promise been fulfilled?"