Lapid: I'll get the economy out of the mud soon

Finance minister says demonstrators set to hit Tel Aviv streets in protest of budget "are protesting against themselves."

Lapid looking sullen 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Lapid looking sullen 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
"I will get the economy out of the mud it's in sooner than expected," Finance Minister Yair Lapid promised in an interview with Channel 2 aired on Friday evening.
The finance minister defended the budget cuts and tax hikes he introduced in his 2013 budget proposal earlier this week, saying the middle class "can't afford for the Israeli economy to collapse."
When pressed by Channel 2 reporters Danny Kushmaro and Keren Marziano on why the majority of the cuts and tax hikes were aimed at the middle class working man, Lapid said socialism did not succeed anywhere in the world.
"I know the theory that says 'lets take [money] from the rich,' and it didn't succeed anywhere in the world.... I won't ruin the Israeli economy just so they stop writing bad things [about me] on Facebook. I'm determined to do the right thing even if it's not popular," he said.
Lapid echoed previous statements he made, insisting the budget cuts and tax hikes he intends to impose were the right thing to do in order to recover the Israeli economy.
"I could've not [done anything], I could've done less. Everyone understands the situation needs to be fixed and everyone has their own expectations of how to close the deficit, and no one wants it to harm them," he said.
Much of the criticism aimed at Lapid focused on his lack of economic experience. He defended his choice to take the post of finance minister reasoning that he is working with the best economists in Israel, and that the finance minister's job is not to be an economist himself.
"I wanted to be the finance minister to find out 'where is the money?'" Lapid said, recounting his campaign slogan. "With 19 mandates, no one could force me to sit in an office I didn't want," he stressed.
He added that previous finance ministers who had experience did not impress him. "Just because someone has been a politician for 20 years, that doesn't mean he's ready for the Finance Ministry," he said.
Lapid also addressed the demonstration that is set to take place on Saturday evening in Tel Aviv to protest his budget proposal.
"I am stopping myself from going out to the square, taking a microphone and asking them, 'who are you demonstrating against? Are you protesting in order to lose your job? Are you protesting to have your apartment lose half its value? Are you protesting to have the economy around you collapse? You are protesting against yourselves. It doesn't make any sense,'" he said.
When asked whether he intends to run for prime minister in the next election, Lapid told Channel 2 that he does, but that right now he is not running. "There are no elections, and there won't be on the horizon as long as it's up to me because we are making moves that will take a while, and I want to enjoy the fruits of our labor along with the public," he said.
On Friday, the finance minister met with Teva CEO Jeremy Levin to discuss Lapid's intentions to raise taxes for large corporations.
"It is time to change the rules of the game on non taxable income of international companies and on tax benefits," Lapid told Levin in the meeting.
The two agreed to open negotiations on these changes.
Globes contributed to this report.