Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will chair a new ministerial committee to tackle Israelis’ high cost of living, addressing a campaign promise that his government would prioritize the issue.
The establishment of the committee was approved at Sunday’s weekly Cabinet meeting.
“We will formulate plans, lead reforms and use all means necessary to ensure that the government takes the necessary actions to open the markets, lower barriers, and work with distributors, importers and suppliers to lower prices and the cost of living for the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu said.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich will serve as vice chairman of the Ministerial Committee on the Fight against the Cost of Living.
The consumer price index has risen 5% over the past 12 months (April 2022 to April 2023) and 2% since Netanyahu’s government was sworn into office at the start of the year, according to the latest data from the Central Bureau of Statistics.
In late April, the Israeli government announced a plan to bring in thousands of workers from India and China to lower the cost of living.
During a diplomatic swing to India that was cut short due to “Operation Shield and Arrow” against Islamic Jihad terrorists in the Gaza Strip, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen on May 9 inked an agreement with his Indian counterpart S. Jaishankar to allow 42,000 Indian nationals to work in the Jewish state—34,000 in construction and 8,000 in nursing.
In an interview with JNS following the passage of the 2023-24 state budget, Smotrich said it addresses the cost of living issue.
“We have bolstered the disposable income Israelis have in a significant way by expanding negative income tax eligibility, by giving work allowances to those who get lower pay and by increasing tax breaks for those who have children,” Smotrich said.
“The reform in the meat industry increases the maximum period in which you can sell frozen goods from 80 days to 120 days—like in the rest of the world. This will increase imports,” the minister continued.
“The budget gives more in direct subsidies and we do not hurt farmers. Imports have been down because measures that were supposedly directed against [agricultural] pests created [market] barriers. The budget invests 2 billion shekels [$536 million] over the next four years in encouraging innovation so that more technology can be phased into service and thus agricultural output will increase.”