Netanyahu Unveils Massive Financial Reforms with Cheaper Housing, Healthcare Boosts

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference following his meeting with Lithuania's Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis at the government's headquarters in Vilnius, Lithuania, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)
AP/Mindaugas Kulbis

JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his newly tapped candidate for finance minister, Likud MK Nir Barkat, on Sunday unveiled a wide-ranging financial plan that includes more hospitals and cheaper housing and food, set to be put into place if Likud wins next month’s elections. 

The plan, Netanyahu said, would also see more investments in Israel’s periphery, including the Negev, Galilee and the West Bank, as well as investments in small and medium-sized businesses and start-ups.

“The first thing is to drastically reduce food prices in the country,” Netanyahu said at a press briefing at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. “Currently, food prices [in Israel] are 30 percent higher than in the rest of the world. We will tear down monopolies and decentralize the [food] market.”

“Second thing is to drastically reduce housing prices. We will cut bureaucracy significantly. Sixty percent of the price of an apartment in Israel today is the price of land and taxes,” he said.

A third reform would be in healthcare, Netanyahu added, with the construction of new hospitals and increasing the number of beds in existing hospitals by at least 700.

“We have to cut waiting lines. In a few years, we will no longer see patients lying in hospital corridors – this is unacceptable,” he said.

Barkat said 400,000 new jobs would be created over the next decade in the periphery.

“The idea is to provide a child from the periphery the same level of education a child living in the center of the country receives,” he said.
“We need to help them, we need to tear down barriers and give them certainty. It will require us to do three things: freeze property taxes for five years, reform business licensing and equaling the social conditions of freelance workers in Israel [to employees working on a salary].”

He added that the government would invest heavily in the hi-tech sectors.

“Israel must be a leading player in future technologies. We, in Israel, have a huge potential when it comes to biotechnology and medicine. The same goes for robotics and public transport. Intel has made Israel their international autonomous vehicle hub. We have more ventures and startups that can definitely change the world.”

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