Foreign workers: There is no argument that the number one social and economic problem today is unemployment, now threatening to reach 11 percent. The government has taken a few steps to tackle the problem, like imposing a tax on employing foreign workers while deporting those illegally present.
That at least may be declared government policy, but the ministers of farmers and builders are trying instead to bring in even more foreign workers, and the Knesset is a walkover. When the treasury tried to raise the tax on employing foreign workers - from 8 to 20 percent in construction and from 8 to to 10 percent in agriculture - Daniel Benlulu, MK (Likud), stopped it.
Benlulu was acting on behalf of farmers and contractors who want to keep on exploiting cheap foreign labor and not have to pay what Israelis would otherwise cost.
The contractors say if they were forced to employ locals, the prices of property would rise. But that really isn't so frightening, because the goal is to reduce unemployment and help those who have taken the hardest knocks. If the cost of that is some rise in apartment prices, it's a reasonable and just one to pay. But the unemployed do nothing for Benlulu - all he cares about is farmers and builders.
Provident funds: The last few years have seen a great exodus from provident funds. The public has cashed in billions from these and put it into other savings plans. The trend began in 1995 following a stock market collapse, and peaked in summer 1996, when the Bank of Israel was forced to declare a "safety net" for bonds traded on the market.
The banks' provident funds produced lower returns for their customers until last year. In 2003, bonds went up sharply, like stocks. As a result, the largest bank-run provident funds - Otzma, Gadish and Tamar - saw relatively high yields of 17-19 percent. But this was not because of better management, but day to day strengthening - flying on automatic pilot.
So this is the time to quit. At the top. Take what has accumulated, withdraw it from the big clumsy players with billions under management, and go to some private broker who can recommend small, flexible provident funds with better management and higher results.
Ports: The strike is looming on the horizon. The Histadrut declared an industrial dispute yesterday concerning workers at the ports of Eilat, Haifa and Ashdod, so that in 14 days time the workers can call a strike. This is no idle threat because the workers are not prepared to accept any competition in their field, or the conversion of the ports into separate government corporations. While on the other hand, Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regards breaking the port monopoly as the crowning goal of his job, the pivotal aspect of Israel's economic strategy.
The danger is that the other industrial disputes will join up with this one: the local authorities, the hospitals in general and the Wolfson dispute, the Public Works Department, because of its privatization, and once again the country will be shut down entirely.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now