Sapir: Government is Fighting Poverty; Spending More on Social Services Than on Defense

Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir read out a string of facts and figures to show how much the government does to fight poverty when the Cabinet today began a major discussion of the report on children and youth in distress. The report, by a committee of experts under Dr. Israel Katz, head of the National Insurance Institute, was presented in its final form to Premier Golda Meir two weeks ago and she then promised a full-dress Cabinet discussion as well as a Knesset alluring of the whole subject of poverty.

The report showed that 160,000 children in Israel lived in conditions of distress, with-94 percent of them hailing from Oriental families. Katz himself was present in the Cabinet and stressed in his remarks the lack of trained social workers. Welfare Minister Michael Hazani agreed, urging the need of more university trained social workers.

Sapir insisted that there was no hunger in Israel. There was poverty he admitted – but it was not characterized by hunger. He and other Ministers assailed a television program which portrayed a Jerusalem family last week as living in hunger while in fact the family’s income, from its working members and from welfare, was quite sufficient to feed it reasonably. The TV program caused a national stir.

Sapir noted that the government this year was spending more on social service than on defense. The figure was IL 7.25 billion. In the previous five years it had spent IL 25 billion – the same as defense spending. This meant that the average family benefitted to the tune of IL 8000 yearly from social services.

More than half the government’s income from taxes went to social services. Payments for children had increased by “revolutionary amounts” in recent years. Sapir maintained. He added that in point of fact many of the committees’ recommendations were already being implemented.

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