The government has failed to keep its commitments to strengthen the country's weakest population, thus contributing to the widening social gap between rich and poor, according to the annual study published Sunday by the Taub Center for Social Policy, a non-governmental research unit. Released to coincide with the Sderot Conference for Society, which takes place on Tuesday and Wednesday in the southern border town, and scheduled ahead of the next round of negotiations for the 2008 state budget, the report reveals that only 67 percent of the promised social budget for 2007 has gone towards welfare, health and educational programs that assist the country's weakest sectors. "Programs that should have been developed to help the needy have not been implemented, despite being allocated in the 2007 budget," said Taub Center director Professor Ya'acov Kop, who - along with a team of researchers - monitored the dealings of the present administration. "We have figures up until September, which is three-quarters of the year. Seventy-five percent of the allocated budget should have already been spent but there is still 8% that has not been used." "I want to make it clear that this is not negligence by the Finance Ministry," he continued, explaining that a tighter-than-predicted budget was a constant goal of the ministry. However, explained Kop, "There is a delicate balance between a country's need to control its budget and reduce its external debts while still being able to maintain its internal social levels." "If a country manages to collect more than it spends, then one of their targets has been achieved but it could end up being at a social cost. I believe that we should slow down a little and still be able to fulfill those goals. Having a strong social budget does not harm economic growth," he said. Despite the strengthening of the country's economy in the last year, the study also found that the gap between rich and poor has continued to widen. "We are, of course, very lucky to have such a strong Internet and digital industry, and I hope it will continue," said Kop. "However, that alone creates even larger discrepancies between those at the top of the scale and those at the bottom. We need to figure out how to share the blessing of this economic growth." The Sderot Conference, now in its fifth year, is slated to examine a wide variety of socioeconomic issues and include presentations from many of the country's political elite.