Lapid 'worried' over economy, said to cut defense

After meetings with advisers, finance minister expresses concern over data, Ma'ariv: PM agrees to scale back defense budget.

Lapid at faction meeting 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Lapid at faction meeting 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Finance Minister Yair Lapid on Monday continued expressing public concern over the economy, saying he was “very worried by the economic data presented to me” in meetings with senior Treasury officials.
Lapid and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu agreed to cut the defense budget by NIS 4.5 billion over the next year and a half to reduce the large deficit, Ma’ariv reported Sunday night. NIS 16b. would be slashed from spending, hitting child allotments, infrastructure work on roads and highways, and the implementation of the child education law, the paper reported.
From Monday morning until the hours before Passover began, Lapid held “marathon meetings” with his top advisers. He expressed concern not only over the fiscal problems, which he called “an overdraft,” but also with the low labor participation rate in the ultra-Orthodox and Arab sectors.
In February, Bank of Israel Gov. Stanley Fischer said that only 20 percent of Arab women and less than half of haredi men work.
“Detailed decisions about the necessary economic steps still have not been taken,” Lapid said. “After I finish the discussions with heads of the Treasury and the prime minister, I will turn to the Israeli public and present it with the state of the economy as it really is and the decisions necessary to return it to the right path.”
Lapid also met with Fischer and spoke by phone to his US counterpart, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, to discuss global economic challenges. He will continue his meetings through Hol Hamoed (the intermediate days of the holiday).