JERUSALEM (Jan. 17)
Israel is, facing an economic crisis and in the throes of spreading labor unrest, were shocked to learn that some 10 percent of the population presently live below the poverty line.
According to figures released yesterday by the National Insurance Institute (Nil), 500,000 people live on a monthly income of under 14,000 Shekels (about $140). This is only 20 percent of the average salary and defines the poverty line. About 300,000 ofithese people belong to the families of pensionaires but the rest are members of families of salaried workers.
The Nil figures showed that the number of poverty families with four or more children tripled between 1977-1982. There was also a sharp rise in the number of single-parent families which fell below the poverty line in the same period.
Danny Azriel, Director General of the NIl, said today that the erosion of child care allowances and the failure to readjust tax brackets to inflation were the main causes of spreading poverty. He called for a reform of the welfare system. Minister of Labor and Welfare Aharon Uzan was said to be ready to bring the problem before the Cabinet and demand urgent measures to reverse the trend.
NAVON BLASTS THE LIKUD GOVERNMENT
But former President Yitzhak Navon blasted the Likud government for allowing the poverty situation to develop. In an interview published in Haaretz today, Navon said that if the Nil’s figures are correct “this is not the poverty line but the red line. It is hard to believe that the leaders of the economy have, brought our society to such a low level without having foreseen it and without having taken preventive measures, ” Navon said.
He warned that “this situation will have grave psychological and social consequences” and accused the government of having misled the populace. “They created a fool’s paradise until they woke up. The main victims are the children and this is unacceptable,” Navon declared.
Adding to the bad news today was the paralysis of all public services, including radio and television broadcasts, as tens of thousands of government workers staged a warning strike in support of wage increases to make ip for the erosion of their incomes by infaltion. All government offices remained closed. The strke was triggered by the collapse of negoatiations between Histadrut and the government over higher wages.
20 MUNICIPAL AUTHORITIES HAVE FINANCIAL CRISIS
Meanwhile, a Knesset committee was warned today that about 20 local municipal authorities face a financial crisis and will have to be bailed out by the government.
Chaim Kubersky, Director General of the Interior Ministry, told the MKs that the financial difficulties were largely unavoidable, but in some cases they were the result of mismanagement. The government, he said, should not compensate the local authorities in such cases. He said the Interior Ministry has submitted a plan to ease the crisis but so far has had no affirmative response from the Treasury.
The Knesset Finance Committee decided today to raise transportation fares by 25-50 percent. But it rejected a government request to increase the price of electricity. Ten opposition MKs rejected the rise. The coalition is expected to resubmit the request next week.