(photo credit: REUTERS)
When the government does something worth applauding Op-ed pages in most publications reflect the writers’ dissatisfaction with the system.
Seldom does the government get a pat on the back in an op-ed page. But the decision to place NIS 50 per month in the bank account of every Israeli child from the time of its birth till its 18th birthday is worthy of every commendation.
It’s something that I personally have been advocating for years, because I am the beneficiary of such a decision, which unfortunately was not taken by the Australian government, but by my mother who was widowed and left penniless at age 37.
My mother worked in a clothing store, and barely made enough money to put food on the table and pay for utilities.
We were part of Melbourne’s genteel poor. Thanks to relatively low rentals, we were able to live in a nice apartment in a largely Jewish neighborhood.
A philanthropic policy on the part of the executive board of what was then the only Jewish day school in Melbourne enabled children from non-affluent families to attend, and because we all wore the school uniform there was no social gap between one student and another.
Australia’s child allowance system, known as Child Endowment, was fairly generous in relation to the basic wage.
My mother, who suffered from a number of life-threatening illnesses, wanted to make sure I would not be left destitute if she died. In all probability, one of my much more affluent relatives would have taken me in, but my mother did not want to rely on that and therefore opened an interest-bearing account in my name and deposited all the Child Endowment payments she received in that account.
The capital increased over the years, and by the time I was 18, there was quite a tidy sum. In the interim, my mother had opened a restaurant, so our finances had improved somewhat, but not to any great extent.
What it enabled us to do was to buy better quality products on what was then the most friendly of installment plans. Monthly payments were so minimal that people hardly noticed them. When I turned 18, I actually felt rich. Wanting to repay my mother for her years of sacrifice, I bought her a new living room suite, which I could easily afford – and I paid cash outright. What a feeling of independence! Tens of thousands of children who are today living below the poverty line in Israel will one day also experience this sense of elation thanks to this new government measure.
As worthwhile a policy as this is, one has to wonder to what extent the government has thought ahead.
Unfortunately, children die – some through diseases and some through accidents. Who becomes the beneficiary of the bank account? Should it be the parents? Should it be equally divided among other siblings? Should it be returned to the government? Perhaps such decisions have already been made, but the public had not been made aware of them. If so, the government should show a little more transparency to avoid future misunderstandings.
If such decisions have not yet been made, someone in the Finance Ministry should start thinking about them.