A passionate argument between members of Knesset and representatives of social organizations on one side and Ministry of Finance employees on the other took place today (Sunday) during a debate on the most controversial topic in the Arrangements Bill; cutting allocations to children. The Ministry of Finance: ”This is a matter of priorities and the government has decided to encourage going to work. Cutting allocations for children will shrink the instances of poverty.” Many of the MKs: ”The cut will increase the level of poverty, including amongst working families.” MKs from the coalition: ”We want to extract ourselves from a culture of allocations.” Chair of the Committee MK Nissan Slomiansky (HaBayit Hayehudi) said that there would be more conversations in order to receive more facts from the Treasury before the Committee would make a decision.
Slomiansky: ”There is no intention to increase the level of poverty, but to address the problem at its source by encouraging employment and education. It`s important to remember that even though in most OECD countries child allocations are higher, that is only because there is an economic need to encourage child birth, due to a negative birth rate, which has economic consequences in the short term and the long term.” Slomiansky announced that it was his intention to study all of the cuts in the Arrangements Bill and then to decide what to cut and what not to cut.
Deputy Head of the budget branch of the Ministry of Finance, Moshe Bar Simon Tov: ”The role of the government is to set the priorities and the government decided to prioritize business and education. In 2014, there will be a significant increase in social spending in Israel, especially in order to reduce poverty.”
Bar Simon Tov explained the proposed change: ”One payment will be given for every child in the country, regardless of location and date of birth, 140 NIS. The allocation for people paying surtax, who make over 811 NIS/year, will be cancelled. The suspension of allocations for child vaccinations will be cancelled and allocations for children will not be updated until the end of 2014. The expected savings in 2014 is 2.95 billion NIS, 1 billion NIS in 2013. The most efficient way to help deal with poverty is to encourage people to work. When both members of a couple are working full time, the rates of poverty are very low.”
MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz): ”The meaning of the change is this, an addition of 35 thousand children to cycle of poverty. It is unclear what the exact parameters were for the cut to 140 NIS per child. Encouraging people to go to work is a worthy goal, but many workers are under the poverty line. The cut needs to be delayed until a professional analysis is done. The place for this topic is not in the Arrangements Bill.”
MK Erel Margalit (Israel Labor Party): ”Israel is last amongst the OECD States in allocations. It doesn`t make sense to do this in one year. You`re taking away too much. This should not be a spur of the moment move.”
MK Eliezer Stern (Hatenua): ”In my opinion this will incentivize going to work. Right now they are just taking away allocations from those who pay surtax, but even people on the level of members of Knesset, who are far from paying surtaxes, don`t need allocations.”
MK Yakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism): It is not just the Treasury behind this cut, but also the Prime Minister, who paid for making cuts in 2003 and who will pay this time. The fact that the Ministry of Finance, despite the many existing allocations, decided to only go after the allocation for children is connected to his agenda. Through the harm caused to ultra-orthodox and Arabs, everyone is hurt.
MK Micky Rosenthal (Israel Labor Party): ”They are demolishing the social fabric of the state. The Minister of Finance has hatred of the ultra-orthodox on his mind. Allocations for children is not a socialist concept, it exists throughout the world. It helps families with children acquire basic needs. They have created two classes; those who travel in a jeep with tinted windows, not seeing anyone else and those who are groaning under the burden.”
MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud Yisrael Beitenu): ”A child is a child even if his parents are guilty of not working. This is the hardest cut and if it has to happen, it does after all save 3 billion NIS, it should be spread out over a number of years.”
MK Zvulun Kalfa (HaBayit HaYehudi): ”One way or another we will be raising these allocations in order to arrive at the birthrate that we want because in recent years the birthrate has been falling.”
MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism): ”There are other ways to deal with debt. After the cut, there will be starvation amongst the ultra-orthodox public and they will mobilize to fight this. However, for the children in the HaArgazim neighborhood in Tel Aviv and in Ma`alot, help will not come; there will not be a supportive community. The intention of the Treasury not to give allocations in order to encourage people to join the workforce is ridiculous. The labor market is not prepared for the absorption of the ultra-orthodox and the Arabs. The [Treasury] officials are taking advantage of the naiveté and the inability of the Minster of Finance to deal with their claims.”
MK Michal Biran (Israel Labor Party): ”The intention was to hurt the ultra-orthodox and instead, they have hurt everyone. The ultra-Orthodox will find sectarian solutions, but it doesn`t need to be this way. In my opinion, Shari Arison should receive child allocations, provided that the country focuses more on justice and less on charity.”
MK Yitzhak Cohen (Shas): ”This doesn`t have to do with the economy. They took 3 billion NIS meant for consumption, the poor don`t save and by taking them out of the market you will cause a slowdown. There is less demand. I hope that the Supreme Court will not allow this to pass.”
MK Aliza Lavie (Israel Labor Party): ”You can`t just throw around the words `jeep` or `hatred of the ultra-orthodox`.” She said to the Israel Labor Party Members of Knesset ”In a party that has not one person who wears a skullcap on their head you cannot accuse us [of bigotry]. We have an economic plan that has an outlook for productive citizens. The allocations are taken from all of the sectors. Poor families that are truly needy can still get money from the Ministry of Welfare. We are providing additional tools for exiting from poverty. We want to leave behind the culture of allocations and move to a culture of work.”
MK Meshulam Nahri (Shas): ”We are punishing children in order to attend to their parents.”