Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Nissan 5763 - April 9, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Finance Ministry Rejects Proposal to Cut Funding Across the Board
by Yated Ne'eman Staff

A proposal to make slight across-the-board cuts in allotments spending, thereby saving Bituach Leumi the same amount as the severe cuts in allotments to large families, was rejected outright by ranking Finance Ministry officials, apparently for ideological reasons.

According to economists, the Finance Ministry could cut just 3-4 percent off of all payments by Bituach Leumi (survivors benefits, old-age benefits, etc.) instead of slashing just children's allowances by up to 80 percent. They say such equally distributed cuts would amount to single-digit reductions for many that are hardly felt rather than lopsided severe reductions for a few.

The Finance Ministry is maintaining a hard-line approach on the issue despite warning from Bituach Leumi officials that the planned financial blow will increase the number of poor families to 19.5 percent, adding 11,000 families and 83,000 children to the cycle of poverty. According to Bituach Leumi statistics the additional cut will affect 192,000 already poor families, of which 105,000 are families with three children or more. Eighty-three percent of the total cut falls on the bottom fifth of the population.

"Even before the new plan the situation was horrendous," says Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, of the Association for Children's Welfare. "Applications for assistance are pouring in. Families report they are unable to purchase medicine or pay for basic educational services, not to mention a severe shortage of food." Kadman says even official welfare programs have contacted him. "This is the height of absurdity, for welfare services to contact us, a voluntary organization, asking for help. The entire system is in a state of collapse."

Attorney Yuval Elbashan, of the Bureau of Social Organizations says, "People are in depression and despair; many have lost hope. It must be kept in mind that these are parents who are willing to do just about anything to bring home a living and now, like a deathblow, their allotments are being cut?"

The outright rejection of viable alternatives to slashing children's allotments demonstrates that the proposed cut is not guided by economic considerations alone. As one ranking official explained last week, "This is evil for the sake of evil and nothing can be done about it. Lapid demanded this clause and was not willing to exchange the cut for any other. This is a very open secret in the political establishment. A contract has been taken out against the chareidi sector, which has yet to realize that a war to have them ostracized has been declared. They are trying various lobbies but fail to grasp that Tomi Lapid will never agree to yield on this demand. He will not give up on children's allowances, but will fight over every shekel."

Shinui is not alone in its battle against the allotments for large families. Likud ministers have also expressed gratification over the decision saying, "Shinui is doing the job for us."

"Shinui is the blackest party in politics," says Elbashan. "The heads of government have managed to create a classic [situation of] divide and conquer. They led a whole campaign against the children's allowances for the chareidim with the goal of confusing the masses and creating a clear link between money, children and chareidim. Protected by the [constant] incitement the cut is quietly going through and with the enthusiastic consent of many secularists, who fail to realize that everyone stands to suffer from this horrible cut."


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