A special sub-committee dedicated to finding ways to increase assistance to small- and medium-sized businesses has been set up by the Finance Committee after the Knesset devoted Tuesday to exploring challenges facing the sector. "The government is not giving enough assistance to small businesses and therefore we have set up a subcommittee to formulate ways to increase financial help given to them," said Ya'acov Litzman, chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee. He appointed Israel Beiteinu MK Stas Meseznikov, who currently serves as chairman of the Knesset lobby for small- and mid-sized businesses, to head the subcommittee. The Finance Committee discussion focused on credit availability and financing for small businesses and was one of seven committee sessions in the Knesset seminar. Participating in the Finance Committee session, Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Eli Yishai said his ministry was formulating government proposals to grant leniencies for small businesses, including a recommendation to exempt them from value-added tax. Yishai reported there were around 400,000 small businesses in Israel today employing some 1.2 million people. In light of the day's Knesset activities, the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce said it counted 46,000 new small- and mid-sized businesses that opened in 2006, taking the majority of the 52,000 businesses that opened during the year in total. These figures pointed to growth in the sector from 2005 when 44,000 of the 48,000 new businesses in Israel were smaller enterprises. "The small business sector is one of the central growth engines in the economy which helps decrease unemployment," said Uriel Lynn, president of the FICC. The FICC said it has presented three proposals to assist small- and mid-sized businesses including expanding state-guaranteed funds available to the sector and with that the amount of loans given up to NIS 50,000. The FICC also sponsored a bill, presented to the Knesset by MK Meseznikov, which would secure small businesses participation in Government tenders and recommended that certain business expenses be reduced such as municipal taxes and reducing the bureaucratic processes they have to endure.