JERUSALEM (Jan. 6)
Finance Minister Zeev Sharef submitted a record $2.243 billion national budget for fiscal 1969 to the Knesset (Parliament) today. He called it a “war budget” to emphasize that Israel’s number one priority this year is security although only 37 percent is earmarked for direct military expenditures. The budget for the new fiscal year, which starts April 1, is $350 million higher than the 1968 budget. Its second item, in order of priority, is immigration, Mr. Sharef said. Third place was given to social advancement including increasing the level of education and improved living standards.
The Finance Minister, who also holds the Cabinet portfolio of commerce and industry, said that better living standards depended on increased productivity. He was optimistic, pointing out that Israel’s gross national product rose 14 percent last year, the highest in the country’s history. Mr. Sharef said that despite increased output, wages and prices had remained unusually stable. Israel’s foreign currency reserves fell however, by $100 million and the current dollar reserve of $600 million was expected to decrease during the next fiscal year due mainly to heavy defense expenditures. Mr. Sharef stressed the need to maintain present price levels in order to give Israel’s exports a better chance on the world markets. He said that no new taxes or tax increases were contemplated.
A bill to extend Israel’s voluntary defense loan into fiscal 1969, which begins on April 1, was presented in the Knesset today and is assured of passage. The loan amounts to $86 million, of which Israeli banks are expected to subscribe one-third and the general public the remaining two-thirds. The sum is about the same raised last year.