Israel's economic growth for 2009 is expected to reach 3.5 percent, Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On told the cabinet Tuesday. The economy grew by some 5.5% in 2007, and is expected to grow by some 4.2% in 2008, he said. At a briefing with reporters after the cabinet meeting, Bar-On said the country's budgetary maneuverability was severely limited by financial responsibilities and commitments made by past governments. He called on the ministers to "leave the economy outside politics," and said the government's aim was to continue to encourage economic growth while working to narrow the widening societal gaps. Bar-On said this would not be done through increasing child subsidies, as Shas was advocating. While in the past the government's main economic goal was economic growth, now the government needed to ensure that the growth trickled down to sectors of the society where it did not reach in the past, he said. Bar-On said Israel's economy was strong, but there were weak points and outside influences, such as the current global economic slowdown, and security and political instability inside Israel could have a negative impact on the economy. In this case, a "conservative and cautious" economic policy was needed, he said.