Thursday 23 March 2017

Israel promises to cut costs after protest marches

Jonathan Ferziger in Tel Aviv

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last night promised to ease the cost of living after massive weekend protest rallies brought more than 400,000 people onto the streets.

Mr Netanyahu said he would act on recommendations from a panel headed by Tel Aviv University economist Manuel Trajtenberg that are due by the end of September and aim to provide cheaper housing and bring down prices for food, childcare and transportation.

"The public debate and the Trajtenberg Committee discussions are an opportunity for real changes," Mr Netanyahu said yesterday in remarks broadcast on Israel Radio before his weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

"After receiving the committee's recommendations, I will act quickly to bring about the correct balance between social concern and fiscal responsibility."

A citizens' protest movement that started in mid-July by planting tent camps in Tel Aviv's fanciest neighbourhoods organised rallies across the country at the weekend that attracted as many as 450,000 people.

The protesters "will not give up," said Itzik Shmuli, a leader of the movement and chairman of the National Student Union, addressing a crowd estimated at 300,000 in Tel Aviv.

"They demand change and will not stop until real solutions come."

Israeli stocks fell the most in a week in the first trading session after the rally and amid concerns that the US economy may slip into recession. The benchmark TA-25 Index dropped 2.6pc to 1,102.47 in Tel Aviv, the biggest intraday decline since August 25.

Housing prices have increased about 40pc in the last three years, in part the result of Israel's slow planning and construction process, Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer said on August 1.

They rose 13.7pc in the 12 months through April-May, about triple the inflation rate, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported on July 15.

Israel ranked fourth in the Knight Frank Global House Price Index for the first quarter of 2011, trailing only Hong Kong, India and Taiwan. Rent prices increased a monthly 1.1pc up to May.

Irish Independent

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