Israel Economic Protests: More Giant Housing Protests Planned for Upcoming Weekend

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 8-3-11

Protest leaders met again today to formulate their demands from the government, after writing a preliminary list of demands yesterday. National Union of Israeli Students chairman Itzik Shmuli said that progress was being made, and that the protesters have no intention of giving up their struggle.

“We are united, but not uniform, and we have a common goal,” he said. “We won’t stop for a moment, and we’re preparing for a huge protest on Saturday night following the signals we’re getting from the prime minister. Let there be no doubt, we’re fighting for just one thing – to build our home in Israel. This is a protest of the whole nation. Last Saturday night, 200,000 people from the People of Israel – not weirdos or anarchists – went into the streets. We won’t give up.”
israel protests
The protesters also reacted angrily to the news that the Knesset had passed the National Housing Committee Law and blocked major junctions across the country. The protestors also plan a major march in Tel Aviv tomorrow night to protest the passing of the law.

Specific demands reached by all the parties so far include cutting indirect taxes, especially VAT, investing surplus tax revenues in citizens through the state budget, increasing the Ministry of Housing and Construction’s budget for mortgage and rent assistance and easing eligibility criteria, and increasing government aid. The protesters have also agreed on extending free education from the age of three months; to add positions, hospital beds, equipment, and infrastructures to the healthcare system nationwide to OECD levels; and to halt the privatization of welfare and mental health agencies and an and to outsourcing civil service jobs.

This is still only a first draft of demands, and more drafts will be written.

The protest leaders said today that various demands published in the media and detailed in financial costs originated in a position paper for changing Israel’s social and economic policies written by Dror Israel several months ago. That position paper relies on data and studies by top Israeli and foreign economists.

Responding to Ministry of Finance claims that the costs of the demands are inaccurate, the protest headquarters said that this was disinformation. “First, we consider the emerging public debate on how to increase the budget to be important and significant. The heart of the matter is an argument between world views. One view holds that the optimal state budget is one in which the government intervenes as little as possible in the market, privatizes as much as possible, and reduces its involvement. This is the policy that has existed for over 30 years in Israel, and it is precisely why people have hit the streets.

“The second view promotes policies which say that if there are tax surpluses, the money should be invested back in us, the citizens. The time has come to realize that citizens, too, have the right to an opinion on economic conduct.”

As for the financial estimates, the protest leaders say that cutting VAT from 16% to 5% would cost NIS 60 billion (NIS 15 billion a year over four years). At the same time, cancelling the cuts in income and company taxes would generate NIS 22 billion in revenues. A protest leader said, “The pricing in the plan is based on calculations by the Government Revenues Administration about the consequences of not implementing the Rabinovich committee recommendations.”

Another protest leader said, “There have been claims that there are no surplus tax revenues. First of all, this is a figure that the Accountant General has published. The argument that there are no tax surpluses is based on Israel’s debt, but there is no country without debt. The surpluses we’re talking about came after the massive reduction in the debt-GDP ratio – the fastest reduction in the OECD.”

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news – http://www.globes-online.com

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