Government okays Gaza-belt benefits package

Govt approves large-sca

The cabinet on Sunday approved a plan drafted by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz to grant benefits to communities bordering the Gaza Strip. As a result, NIS 340 million will be spent to bolster areas that have suffered infrastructure damage as a result of bombardment from the Gaza Strip. Such areas, said the prime minister, will now undergo a series of improvements, ranging from infrastructure maintenance to increased security measures. NIS 150m. will be allocated to fortifying schools and kindergartens, while NIS 51m. will be used to upgrade the communities' sewer systems. Income and property taxes will remain relatively low in 2010, while unemployment will be combated. The government's plan will also upgrade Sderot's industrial area and create additional fortified child day care centers. During the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that the policy of assisting the Gaza-area communities "became clear" over the weekend. "The Prime Minister's Office, along with the Finance Ministry, has formulated a government package for investment in infrastructures and development in order to help the communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip, especially Sderot, in which most of the population is concentrated," he said. "But there are other communities that have suffered, some of which are still suffering. This NIS 300m. plan will meet their needs. I think that this is a welcome and important step that the government is taking." Steinitz, meanwhile, said that the program would "demonstrate to residents of Sderot and other Gaza-belt communities that we have not forgotten what occurred there a mere year ago." The government, he said, remained committed to "the fortification of the communities in the area - in times of quiet, too."