JERUSALEM (Sep. 23)
Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir challenged last night a statement in the New Year’s message of President Shazar assorting there were many cases of malnutrition in Israel and was in turn challenged by a member of the Jerusalem Labor Council listening to his speech. Israel’s devaluation last month, in which the Finance Minister had a key role, and some consequences of the devaluation also came under sharp criticism at the meeting.
Sapir, without mentioning Shazar by name, said “it is a pity that a very high ranking person has made such a statement. Apparently he has been given false information.” Shazar said in his New Year statement that “there has been no narrowing but rather widening in the economic gap between the large numbers of the undernourished and the individuals” whose incomes had “grown too easily.” Sapir argued that government statistics and independent research “prove” that the standard of living of all Israelis, including even the lowest income groups, had risen during recent years. He added that “no one in Israel suffers from malnutrition.” A member of the audience broke into the Sapir address to say “there are such cases in Jerusalem.”
Among complaints voiced by members of the Council were that after the devaluation there had been price increases, and that a general weakening of the wage-earner’s purchasing power had taken place in recent years and that taxation favored employers. Sapir also said that as a result of the devaluation, Israel’s defense outlays in Israeli currency would have to be increased by some $125000. He said the total sum spent for defense this year would be about $1.5 billion, and that in 1972 it would have to be increased still more.