The Knesset Finance Committee has approved an additional NIS 2 million for President Shimon Peres' overseas travel expenses; his new 2010 travel budget is NIS 9.3 million.

The committee also approved another NIS 500,000 for Peres to cover the travel expenses of business people accompanying the president on his trips around the world. They are supposed to refund their travel costs to the state, so this amount is more like a loan that will be paid back.

"All the trips are for meetings with senior government officials, for international public relations and such matters," said Osnat Zamir of the President's Office.

Peres will take an Israel Air Force plane for his state visits to Bulgaria and Romania starting today. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Peres to make the trip as part of Israel's public-relations campaign in the region, and to take part in the memorial ceremony for the crew of the air force helicopter that crashed in Romania last month. Peres will also be visiting South Korea soon.

The committee also approved various changes in the budgets for former prime ministers and approved NIS 30 million in compensation for those hurt by the construction freeze in the settlements.The money will go to people who bought houses in the settlements but face large expenses because construction was delayed.

The committee also added NIS 100 million for grants to local authorities, which will now total NIS 2.5 billion.