C.o.l. Up Only 5.1 Percent in March

Finance Minister Yigal Hurwitz said he was pleased that the cost-of-living index rose by only 5.1 percent in March, the last month of the 1979/80 fiscal year. It was the second successive month in which the c.o.l. index hovered at five percent.

But many economists believe this was a temporary breathing spell and that living costs will soar more steeply in April. They noted that the March figure benefited from an energetic campaign to keep prices down before the Passover holiday.

In April, the beginning of the new fiscal year, cost-of-living allowances for the last six months will be included in wages. By agreement between the government and Histadrut they will be 46 percent greater than the previous allowance.

In addition, the price of fuel is expected to rise by 32 percent this month, which will mean higher prices for electricity and water which in turn will increase the costs of many other products and commodities.

Meanwhile, the Central Bureau of Statistics released figures for the full fiscal year which ended March 31. The average c.o.l. increase was 120 percent. This included a 160 percent hike in food, a 140 percent increase in the cost of housing and a 70 percent increase in the cost of clothing and shoes. The price of new cars declined by six percent last month because of lack of customers. But this had no impact on the overall price index. The economists said.

Hurwitz took comfort, however, from the decline in the country’s balance of trade deficit. Exports now cover almost 70 percent of imports compared to barely 50 percent a few months ago. It indicates a lessened demand for imported goods and a lowering of demand for consumer goods in general. This means that manufacturers have had to find markets for their products abroad, thereby increasing exports.

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