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A quarter of new small businesses in Haifa and the North are on the verge of collapse, and could close in a matter of months, Lahav president Zeev Wiener warned yesterday. Wiener based his claim on surveys conducted in North after the war in Lebanon concluded by Lahav, the Association of the Self-Employed.

The self-employed have set up some 30,000 new businesses over the past two years, primarily in the fields of tourism, hotels and the support fields associated with them.

Wiener said these business, which sprang up as the economy rebounded, owe enormous amounts to the banks which underwrote their creation. "Currently, because of the halt in the flow of their revenue during 33 days of war, businesses are incapable of meeting their loan repayment schedules," Wiener claimed.

Wiener added the government compensation given so far to endangered businesses was for covering wage outlays without taking into account the particularities of new businesses, which have heavier initial overhead costs. Wiener demanded the government put forth a special package for averting the closure of these new businesses, including postponing tax payments, municipal property taxes and other levies without fines or sanctions. He also called on the state to share in paying employee salaries to avert layoffs, to provide special grants to these businesses; to provide compensation against lawsuits for failure to provide products and services during the war and to pay limited unemployment benefits to the self-employed