2009 budget: Security vs. socioeconomics

Bar-On: Israel hit by global economic crisis, political instability; Yishai, Eitan threaten to vote against budget.

Ronnie Bar-On sad 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy )
Ronnie Bar-On sad 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy )
The Treasury will present the government with two options for the 2009 budget, one with a security emphasis and the other with a socioeconomic emphasis, Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On said Tuesday prior to submitting the budget to the cabinet. During a press conference at his ministry, Bar-On stressed that he would urge the government to approve the option with the emphasis on socioeconomic issues, which, he said also had good balance between security requirements and social and welfare needs. The budget stands at NIS 319 billion, but that figure will be reduced to 228 billion after various payments are made. The proposed budget and Economic Arrangements Bill include reductions in spending amounting to nine billion shekels, including cuts to education, child welfare and pensions. Also, maternity leave would be cut to 12 weeks and birth grants would only be given for a first child. Two coalition members expressed opposition to the proposed budget. Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai said he would oppose it unless the cuts to child welfare and education are not canceled, while Pensioners Minister Rafi Eitan said that the planned pension reductions must be withdrawn immediately. In addition, the budget proposal calls for a NIS 90 health services tax as well as terminating state-funded security in primary schools. "The Israeli economy is not going through a simple period. There is a problematic integration of the global economic crisis and [domestic] political instability," Bar-On said.