Inequality in Israel is worse than in the rest of the world, and that is an indictment against Israeli society that has created a feeling of injustice, said Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg on Monday at a conference sponsored by TheMarker in Tel Aviv. Trajtenberg, the head of the eponymous Trajtenberg committee on socioeconomic change, spoke out for the first time since he presented the committee's recommendations in September.
"The citizen in the middle of the [wage] distribution sees on one side dire and continuing poverty, but it is hard for him to sympathize with the poor since that stems from non-participation in the workforce. He sees a lack of bearing the burden," said Trajtenberg. "The same part that is meant to arouse solidarity and empathy arouses distance. On the other hand, he sees the creation of excessive wealth. When the economy grows expectations are that all the boats will rise with the tide - but in reality the fruits only reach the same layer of excessive wealth and not the salaries of the average person," he added.
But Trajtenberg said the old labels of socialism and capitalism are no longer appropriate, and the world is much more homogenous than ever before. He said Israel now has an opportunity that occurs only once in 50 or even 100 years to make changes.
Social Affairs Minister Moshe Kahlon said it is impossible to create an egalitarian world, but it is possible to reduce inequality. He called the Trajtenberg report just a beginning. "What is social justice? There are many answers. Social justice is simply fighting poverty. People go out to work but do not earn respectable salaries," he said.
Kahlon called to reduce economic concentration, citing the example of the dairy and poultry industries, which he said suffer from overconcentration from the top down. He said the laws against such concentration were not strong enough. "It is unimaginable that a cellular company will try to get a loan from a bank that is also an owner of a rival cellular company, and that in order for the loan to be approved [the company] is forced to reveal its business plans," said Kahlon.
He said no one should be able to own both financial and nonfinancial assets at the same time.
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