Lapid: I won't let Israel become Cyprus or Greece

Finance minister vows to ensure the middle class would cease carrying the burden of budget cuts on their shoulders; adds if the middle class is not protected the economy will come to a halt and the deficit will grow.

Yair Lapid 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Yair Lapid 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Painful cuts would have to be made in order to close the budget deficit of NIS 30 billion, but the middle class would not carry those cuts on their shoulders, Finance Minister Yair Lapid said on his Facebook page on Monday.
In a lengthy post Lapid described a meeting that he held recently at the Finance Ministry where he told the gathered bureaucrats that their job "was not to balance Excel spreadsheets but rather to help Mrs. Cohen."
Ricky Cohen, Lapid explained, is a 37-year-old high school teacher from Hadera with three children. Ricky and her husband who works in hi-tech earn a little over NIS 20,000 a month.
Lapid said Mrs. Cohen represented the Israeli middle class who works and pays taxes and carries "the weight of the entire Israeli economy on its back."
The finance minister wrote that he encouraged the bureaucrats in the ministry to think of ways to help Mrs. Cohen "improve her quality of life, decrease her cost of living, and make her feel that her taxes are really working for her."
Lapid echoed a statement that he made on his Facebook page last week, saying that slashing the deficit would involve difficult decisions. Referring to Israel's Mediterranean neighbors who have undergone economic crises, Lapid added that he had to make those difficult decisions because he was not prepared that on his watch Israel would reach the same harsh economic situation as in Greece and Cyprus.
Meretz MK Esawi Freige criticized the finance minister, saying Lapid was being presumptuous about the earnings of the country's middle class. "It seems that an income of NIS 20,000 really is not a lot of money for Yair Lapid and his millionaire friends," Freige said.
Freige added that a family earning NIS 20,000 a month is not considered middle class, it is far from it. "The average income for an Israeli houshold is around 10,000 NIS a month, and the majority of Israeli employees earn NIS 6,000 a month," he said.
Freige said Lapid ought to to break out of his bubble, take a look around the country and meet with Israeli communities of all types - not just with the wealthy in North Tel Aviv.
Last month Lapid posted a statement on his Facebook page in which he stated that “it’s time to deal with the overdraft,” adding that he would devote his first year on the job to decreasing it. Dealing with it sooner rather than later would ensure that the painful cuts would not last as long, he said.