The office of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has responded to heavy criticisms of governmental policies by Haifa's business community, saying that his government is working on a plan to strengthen the north and has already invested some NIS 105 million in Haifa over the past 18 months, reports the Hebrew weekly Yediot Haifa. Last week, the newspaper reported that Haifa Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Oded Feller had sharply criticized the government, saying it had "taken out a contract" on the city, had not stood by promises to help the north and had cancelled initiatives that would have helped Haifa's development. According to the latest report, Olmert's office has now responded to the criticisms, saying the government, "indeed recognizes the vital national need for the continued development of the Haifa Port," while adding that the timing of this project is dependent on the inter-departmental committee that was set up to supervise the work. In addition, Olmert's office said that as part of the general plan to strengthen the North, the government had already invested NIS 9 million in supporting new factory technology, NIS 33 million in setting up a new "technology hothouse," NIS 14 million in education, NIS 2 million in supporting the small business sector, and other projects. "At present, a plan is being put together for the continuation of government plans to strengthen the North, and in that framework large sums will be invested in the development of Haifa and its factories," Olmert's office said.