Business in Brief

Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, Eli Yishai, signed emergency regulations yesterday evening enabling local authorities, the Israel Electric Corporation and private factories defined as essential industries, such as bakeries, to require their employees to come to work. The purpose of the orders is to allow the continued provision of basic services and goods to the population living within a 20-kilometer radius from Gaza. Ashkelon, Sderot and Netivot are included within this region. This is not the first time Yishai has implemented such regulations, which have been issued now for an unlimited time. However, the ministry says the situation will be evaluated on a day-to-day basis to see if the orders are still necessary. (Haim Bior)

Political parties running for the Knesset will be enjoying a nice Hanukkah gift: a NIS 100 million advance for their election campaigns. Parties now represented in the Knesset will get about NIS 87 million of the sum. The rest will go to other parties, on the condition that they provide bank guarantees to cover the campaign funds, which they will have to repay if they do not make it into the next Knesset. Existing parties get a NIS 731,000 advance for each current MK, 60% of their total funding. The rest comes in two stages: after the publication of the official results, and after the state comptroller publishes his report on election spending. Kadima will be getting NIS 20.4 million now, Labor NIS 13.1 million, and Likud NIS 9.5 million. (Zvi Zrahiya)

Tax revenues from the capital markets dropped 56.5% in the third quarter of 2008, compared to the same period last year. Over the 12 months from October 2007 to September 2008 revenues were down 40%, or NIS 4.3 billion, from the year before, the Israel Tax Authority reported at the end of last week. Total tax revenues were down 3.8% in the 12 months through September 2008, or NIS 184 billion. Only VAT revenues were up in the quarter, by 9%; purchase tax revenues fell a sharp 12.7%. (Moti Bassok)

Bank of Israel governor Stanley Fischer will make his monthly interest rate announcement tomorrow evening, and he is expected to lower rates by 0.5% to even a full 1%. Today's 2.5% rate is the lowest in Israeli history, and it will be going even lower. In comparison, this past January the rate was 4.25%. While the official decision will only be made tomorrow afternoon after the regular discussions on the matter, a senior Bank of Israel official said it seems Fischer has already made up his mind, but is keeping his decision to himself. (Moti Bassok)

Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, is planning to sell off some of its assets in Israel, after losing around $90 million in the Madoff Ponzi scheme. One of the properties likely to be put on the block is the three-star Young Judaea youth hostel in Jerusalem's Givat Massuah, valued at NIS 70 million. The building stands on a 12.4-dunam (3.1-acre) plot. Hadassah bought the land in 2002 for NIS 4 million, and spent more than NIS 5 million constructing the hostel. It has 129 suites, a library, 10 classrooms, a synagogue and a 350-seat auditorium. A senior Hadassah source said the decision to sell the guest house was made before the fraud was revealed. (Ranit Nahum-Halevy)

Israeli cowboys will have far more space on the open range as the state will increase the amount of land for grazing beef cattle from 2 million dunams (about 500,000 acres) to 3.1 million dunams (some 775,00 acres). The plan is to stop the illegal use of state lands, and the agriculture and finance ministries have agreed to the move. In addition, the cattle farmers will receive emergency aid of NIS 6.3 million to help feed the steers, because the drought has limited the amount of available grass. (Amiram Cohen)