© Reuters. File photo: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attends the weekly cabinet meeting in the office of the Prime Minister in Jerusalem on August 1, 2021. Abir Sultan/Pool via REUTERS
Author: Steven Schell
JERUSALEM (Reuters)-The Ministry of Finance and the Prime Minister’s Office stated that the Israeli cabinet unanimously approved the national budget for 2021-2022 on Monday, more than three years have passed since the government last approved the fiscal expenditure plan.
After a marathon meeting from Sunday morning to evening, cabinet ministers voted on a spending package of 605.9 billion shekels ($188 billion) and 560 billion shekels for 2021 and 2022, respectively.
This includes additional funds used to fight the coronavirus pandemic and to service debt.
After meeting the Minister of Health’s request for more funding, the vote was taken.
The budget will be submitted to the parliament next, and it is expected that a preliminary vote will be held in early September, and the 14-month budget will be finally approved in early November.
The budget deficit is expected to account for 6.8% and 3.9% of GDP in 2021 and 2022, respectively, and will reach 11.6% in 2020.
“After a long discussion, we passed a responsible budget,” said Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
He said the country is investing heavily in infrastructure, transportation and real estate, and has made it easier to do business through key reforms that lower barriers and reduce bureaucracy.
Two years of political stalemate and four elections have left Israel still using the prorated version of the 2019 national budget adopted in March 2018.
The new government led by former software entrepreneur Prime Minister Naftali Bennett took office in mid-June and replaced Benjamin Netanyahu after 12 years in office.
Bennett said after the vote: “After three years of stagnation, Israel resumes work.” “Israel in 2021 is sowing the future for our children and grandchildren in 2051.”
In the economic plan attached to the budget, the ministers approved measures ranging from the release of imports to lowering the cost of living and raising the retirement age of women from 62 to 65.
It will also encourage employment, invest in infrastructure — transportation, housing, technology, and energy — and reform the long-term protected domestic agricultural sector.
Lieberman is seeking more imports on the grounds that the cost of fresh produce has doubled in the past decade, and the state will invest in making farmers who oppose the plan more innovative and efficient.
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