Gov't to cover losses of hotels, farmers

Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson seeks to prevent tax on war donations.

hirchson 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
hirchson 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Government and sectoral representatives agreed Monday on a deal outlining compensation for the tourism and agricultural sectors for damages related to the ongoing confrontation with Hizbullah, the Finance Ministry said. "These arrangements were done as quickly as possible, in order to improve the condition of workers in the North," said Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson, referring to the sector-specific ammendments to the overall business compensation agreement signed last week. According to the deal, hotels would receive 68 percent of the difference between the volume of business during the month covered by the agreement and the same month last year. Additionally, hotels will receive assistance for two months following the end of fighting, and bed-and-breakfasts will receive additional help for a period of three weeks thereafter, in accordance with estimates of the time needed to recover, the ministry said. The tourism industry was "one of Israel's most important economic sectors," justifying special consideration for difficulties caused by Hizbullah's rocket attacks and the ensuing conflict, Hirchson said. Agriculturalists will receive compensation for lost harvest days based on normative production costs for each day wasted (including money spent on materials and wage payments to absent workers), while damages to livestock would be compensated based on averaged data collected on the ground, the ministry said. Farmers located within the primary "conflict line" area within nine kilometers of the Lebanese border will receive full compensation, but those living in affected areas south of the primary line - as specified by the agreement - will receive 60% of the full sum. Farmers located within the 9-km band may also request an individual assessment of their losses by the Tax Authority if they feel the generally agreed sum would not suffice. The 9-km. band includes 78 communities mostly supported by agriculture and rural tourism, while the expanded conflict zone includes about 190 communities with 106,000 inhabitants, the Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry said. The rockets from Lebanon brought a halt to the fruit harvest at the height of the season, causing heavy losses to producers of peaches, nectarines, pears, lychees, banans, plums and other fruit, the ministry added. Egg producers will be compensated for losses resulting from eggs left uncollected, as well as those found cracked or of lesser quality because of the fighting, the ministry said, noting that the primary conflict zone provides 700 million of 800 million eggs produced annually in the extended compensation zone. The Egg and Poultry Board separately said that shell-shocked hens have been producing deformed eggs, and a smaller quantity. Poultry farmers will also be compensated for losses to meat sales, delayed veterinary treatments and cases of weight loss among chickens in the affected areas, in addition to the cost of transferring chickens to distant slaughtering facilities. Some 90,000 tons of chickens are raised in the extended conflict zone annually, of them 50,000 tons in the 9-km band abutting the Lebanese border. In a separate development, Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson instructed Tax Authority director Jackie Matza to find a way to cancel taxation on donations coming from abroad destined for the homefront and IDF soldiers. The tax break would cover shipments of such things as toys, mattresses and air conditioners intended for residents stranded in bomb shelters. In response, Matza instructed the authority's commission on tax refunds to expand criteria for full and partial tax refunds on foreign donations during war and other such crises. Separately, the Manufacturers Association of Israel said that about 65% of the 1,800 factories in the North had returned to near-normal operations, up from 45% one week ago. Damages to the region's industry now total NIS 3.1 billion, the association said.