Small business activists lashed out at Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday after he denied the need for financial compensation to businesses affected by the ongoing pandemic and said that Israeli businesses were doing fine.
“MK Liberman is addressing large businesses. [We’ve been] talking about small businesses: yoga instructors, tutors - people who are out of work,” said Roei Cohen, the head of the organization Lahav, which represents independent workers and small businesses in Israel. “Half of the country is in quarantine; they don’t have any means to earn money.”
Lahav’s statement came in response to Liberman’s comments made during a press conference on Sunday, where he addressed the nation’s concerns regarding small businesses suffering in the face of the Omicron variant’s spread in Israel in the new year.
“We will keep the economy in good condition. The situation is good,” he said. “I saw businessmen talking about losses. Some of them are listed on the stock exchange, so I can check their quarterly reports; I wish we would all be in such a situation in 2022. Business is in excellent shape, and I’m happy about it.”
These comments, according to business owners, missed the point of the issue.
“I suggest the minister come down and see with his own eyes these people who have no way to make ends meet, and not to speak about large businesses who are collecting their dividends,” said Cohen. “I don’t know of any small business sitting back and collecting dividends; I see small businesses taking more and more loans and trying to survive this period. Therefore, we demand that there be compensation for the damages done to these independent workers.”
A representative for the Histadrut Workers’ Union warned that some businesses would not survive.
“We need to build a plan that can aid small businesses," the Histadrut official said. "The government needs to put together a plan now, and not in a few months. We can’t wait until the last minute; people need certainty.”
During the press conference on Sunday, Liberman presented his stance on the current turmoil that businesses are suffering in light of the 5th wave of the pandemic.
“All the shops and restaurants [are] full in Modi’in. Currently, from conversations with business people, the problem is a shortage of working hands,” he said.
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of job vacancies in Israel has grown to over 140,000: more than triple the amount at the beginning of the pandemic, and a 54% increase over the average prior to April 2020.