In what many people are considering to be a shocker, the Netanyahu government’s Finance Ministry announced their proposed economic plan on Thursday. The Finance Minister, Yuval Steinitz (or is it really Bibi with Steinitz only filling the position as a “stooge” for Netanyahu), presented the new budget, which includes some changes that are reminiscent of Netanyahu’s previous stint as finance minister during Ariel Sharon’s term in 2005. Some of the new budget changes include:
1. A sharp 10% reduction in child allowances with an aim to “equalize” the amount a family receives for each child from National Insurance. This will severely hurt religious families, and has enraged Shas Party members, who agreed to join the Netanyahu government in the first place when he agreed to their demands, including those involving child allowance.
2. Reducing the Defense Ministry’s budget by NS 2.5 million and forcing the IDF to raise its retirement age for career soldiers as well as the amount of pensions received (sorry guys and gals, no more “golden parachutes” at age 45).
3. More restrictions on persons filing for unemployment: persons up to age 35 will only receive benefits for 45 days; 35-45 for 60 days; and over 45 for 90 days. When asked what people will do with so few jobs available, the answer was: Well, there’s gas stations, supermarkets, and “yesh neshek?” (the “do you have a gun?” question security guards ask people going into shopping malls, etc.).
4. Benefits for pensions and disability payments will be “frozen” until the end of 2010 with no cost of living raises, etc.
5. And, something that everyone who has to spend time in a hospital will feel: 50 NIS ($12) daily surcharge for each day spent in hospital (people won’t be so keen to stay there long, especially elderly people on limited incomes). And this sum is in addition to all other “out of pocket” amounts due.
All of this couldn’t have come at a worst time for most people with more than a quarter million Israelis “officially” unemployed and everyone feeling the sharp sting of this current recession (especially Bank Hapoalim’s head Shari Arison, who in addition to all her other problems is now planning to divorce her current husband, Ofer Glazer – yeah, that guy who spent some time in jail for “bothering” a female employee on Arison’s yacht. Shari may have to sell that too, to raise some badly needed cash).
All in all, it doesnâ€™t bode well for us simple folk who are just trying to keep from drowning in very deep financial waters.