Latet: If government doesn’t change policies, South Tel Aviv will become slums

NGO says 31.9% live below poverty line, compared to government figure of 22%.

A homeless person begs for change in Israel (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A homeless person begs for change in Israel
If the government doesn’t change its policies in addressing poverty, the situation will escalate to the point of favelas in the heart of the country, Latet executive director Eran Weintraub said on Tuesday.
He made these remarks while presenting the findings of Latet’s Alternative Poverty Report at the organization’s annual Conference for the War on Poverty at the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yaffo.
“Already nine years, five governments and countless promises and commitments have passed and still there is no advancement. Until now we have not been able to deal with poverty. Even in the 2016 budget there is no plan to treat it, there is a beginning but the road is still long. We cannot go on like this,” said Weintraub.
“I warn you that if the current policy will continue there will be an escalation here, we can reach the point that in south Tel Aviv there will be favelas [Brazilian slums],” he said.
Latet, an NGO that provides assistance to the needy, recently released its annual report, which indicated that in 2015 there are 2,624,000 poor people in Israel, accounting for 31.9 percent of the population, including 1,626,000 adults (30.2% of the total adult population) and 998,000 children (35.2% of the total child population), living under the poverty line.
The organization’s report presented a drastically different picture than last week’s National Insurance Institute report, which claimed that 1,709,300 people, some 22% of the population, including 444,900 families and 776,500 children, were living below the poverty line.
Latet has issued the Alternative Poverty Report annually for more than a decade, and says it presents a more insightful picture than the National Insurance Institute’s annual survey, as it takes a closer look at the daily struggles of the poor.
“We have to set a government target to reduce poverty,” Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said in his opening remarks at the conference. “I want to be realistic and to stand behind my target and the State of Israel should establish cooperation with Latet in order to consolidate this goal.”
The finance minister said the government has invested a lot of money toward addressing the issue of poverty.
“There are problems that cannot be solved, but we are doing the utmost. In the coming days we will add hundreds of millions to public transportation, we are dividing the money based on the recommendations of the Alalouf Committee [the Committee to Fight Poverty] and I intend to continue in this,” he said.
Kahlon added that he also intends to address the issue of food security.
He concluded by promising that 2016 will see a change in poverty in Israel.
“We promoted the mortgage prices, we committed to 70,000 housing units by the end of next year, on the issue of banking there is an agreement to introduce non-bank credit cards and separation of credit cards from the banks, and in addition there is the cornflakes reform which will create competition and will lead to a reduction in the cost of living,” he said.
“I can say and commit that in 2016 we will see a change – we are promoting activities to escape from poverty, encouraging people to go to work, I have no doubt we shall see a positive change,” he added.
The conference included participants from all sectors of Israeli society, who gathered together to address new and existing policies for combating poverty.
All these sectors of society must join together in order to effectively combat poverty, Gilles Darmon, chairman of Latet, said at the conference.
“We have always said that what will help in finding a solution to poverty is joining forces with the public sector, the business sector and the private sector. Today it will begin to happen, there is still a long way, but we will conduct this struggle with all the tools available in society,” he said. “More than 2.6 million people are calling on us and telling us they cannot go on like this. We are seeking victory, not second place.”
Professor Shlomo Biderman, president of the Academic College, noted that the conference’s location in the heart of Jaffa symbolized the “presence of academia in the most central issue of Israeli society.”
“We are here in Jaffa, in the heart of the periphery, complex and often brutal. Six kilometers from here there are luxury towers. This proximity represents the depth of fear of Israeli society,” he said.