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Finance Minister Roni Bar-On took aim yesterday at the ministerial legislative committee that agreed to link old-age stipends to the average wage. He has no problem with the decision to tie old-age allowances to the average wage in order to prevent their erosion, stated the finance minister, or with other decisions made by the ministers without citing where the money will come from. Fine, Bar-On said, let it come from their ministerial budgets of the ministers who supported the proposal.

Because the budget resources are limited, Bar-On added, help for the poor must come at the expense of budgets for the strong. But in any case decisions must be made responsibly.

Meanwhile, the 2009 budget that is starting to take shape under Bar-On's stewardship places emphases on encouraging the economically weak periphery and helping the poor through "investment in human capital," Bar-On said yesterday, during a belated meeting between top treasury chiefs and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Another key goal of the budget should be to encourage people to work, Bar-On said, and bringing Israel's economic growth to filter down through the lower echelons of society.

During the meeting, the treasury chiefs reviewed the state of the economy and the budget goals for 2009 for the prime minister, ahead of the first cabinet meeting on the budget which is scheduled for June 15.