Treasury seeks to cut rich olims' Absorption Baskets
Finance Ministry publishes list of proposed cuts intended to finance new government initiatives; cutting Absorption Baskets for rich olim will save NIS 130 million cumulatively; other planned cuts include dipping into cleanliness fund for promoting eco-friendly garbage dumping solutions, pushing plan to make government buildings accessible to handicapped to 2021.
The proposal is part of a new list of budgetary cuts intended to finance the government's new initiatives, and said olim with assets of more than NIS 500,000 will not be eligible for the financial assistance and benefits that come with the Absorption Basket, with the aforementioned amount raised with the number of the immigrant family's members.
The ministry is concurrently proposing to increase the Absorption Basket provided to those who are eligible to receive it by ten percent.
The proposal is intended to tackle the situation in which olim of considerable means coming to Israel from places such as France enjoy an Absorption Basket worth thousands of shekels without actually needing the provided assistance.
In the past, the Finance Ministry mentioned, the Absorption Basket was provided only to olim from Eastern European and Latin American countries, as well as some African and Asian countries. In 2002, however, the government changed tack and decided to provide all olim with the Absorption Basket.
The decision, if implemented, will save the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption NIS 100 million and the Ministry of Construction and Housing—which assists new olim with rent—NIS 30 million.
Another move facing rabid resistance is withdrawing NIS 500 million from the Maintenance of Cleanliness Fund in 2019, as well as withdrawing 50 percent of its funds annually.
Local authorities deposit hundreds of millions of shekels in the fund every year, in accordance with their garbage dumping, as a sort of fine. The funds are then used to find more eco-friendly solutions to garbage dumping.
In reality, the Finance Ministry has been accused of foiling the fund's intended goal and cutting into its revenues every year, which prevents it from using its budget for its intended purpose.
The Finance Ministry has attempted to paint previous attempts to do so as "loans," with all parties being clear on them never being returned. This current move is opposed not only by local authorities but also by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, which said, "The idea of taking funds away from the Maintenance of Cleanliness Fund for the Finance Ministry's ends is scandalous and we object to it completely. It also flagrantly flaunts the fund's legally-mandated objective."
The Environmental Ministry continued, saying, "This proposal is very different from past precedents, when the Finance Ministry took a cash loan out of the Maintenance of Cleanliness Fund's budget without decreasing its size or harming its ability to commit and to promote recycling and improved garbage disposal projects. The current proposal, then, will severely cripple the Maintenance of Cleanliness Fund, and we intend to fight it with all our might."
Postponement of accessibility modifications
Another perturbing move the Finance Ministry is planning is to postpone implementation of a past government decision to complete the necessary work to make its buildings accessible to persons with handicaps by November 2018, with only 47 percent of buildings currently accessible.
The Finance Ministry is now planning to postpone implementation of the accessibility decision and push it back to 2021, which will save the government NIS 65 million this year alone.
Another Finance Ministry cut sure to meet police resistance is the attempt to decrease the subsidizing of cops' lunches. While cops enjoy full subsidization currently, the Finance Ministry is seeking to include them in the purview of an agreement signed with the Histadrut Labor Federation in 2017 that provided only NIS 16 per meal for employees.
Simultaneous to cuts planned in other ministries, the Finance Ministry intends to push for the closure of 22 of the Foreign Affairs Ministry's missions around the world, while also downsizing 140 jobs in Israel, which will save NIS 176 million and NIS 40 million respectively.