Treasury: Transportation Min. Budget Cuts Will Go Ahead

PM, in meeting on road safety, said he would cancel planned NIS 150 million reduction in road safety budget.

Despite an announcement made earlier in the day by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who said he would reverse cuts made to the road safety budget, Finance Ministry officials said Sunday evening that no changes have been made to the Transportation Ministry budget, and the cuts will stand.

In the government meeting, Olmert said he would cancel the planned 27-percent cut from the National Road Safety Authority - amounting to some NIS 150 million. The Finance Ministry said that the planned cut was not canceled, but replaced with funds from other sources in the Transportation Ministry.

Sources close to Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz responded with shock. "We don't need anyone in order to take money from one pocket in the Transportation Ministry and put it in another pocket," they said.

"It's a shame that we need more and more examples of the urgent need to give all possible resources to fighting road accidents. If this is indeed true, it is a cynical and irresponsible move and we don't believe the prime minister will take part in it," the sources continued.

Olmert had said in the cabinet meeting on Sunday that "road accidents have become more and more deadly. The situation is alarming, and as I've already informed the Transportation Minister, NIS 550 million will be allocated to road safety programs next year."

During the cabinet meeting, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz outlined the ministry's road safety strategy for 2008, which includes increased reinforcement, media campaigns, educational activities and progress among sectors statistically more prone to involvement in road accidents.

In a bid to improve road safety, representatives from the National Road Safety Suthority suggested high school students receive their matriculation certificates only after passing a "traffic education" course.

Transportation Ministry representatives told the ministers that the rate of accident injuries among children between the ages of one and four are 35 percent higher in the Arab sector than the Jewish sector. They urged a road safely campaign be undertaken among this group.

The officials also said that drivers have crashed in 780 train barriers in the last year.

Over the weekend, six people were killed in road accidents throughout the country. Four of these, all members of the same Netanya family, were killed near the northern town of Yokneam. The driver, Alexander Stefanov, 23, lost control of his car and hit a water pipe by the side of the road. He was killed along with his aunt, uncle and cousin.

In a meeting held Saturday in Nazareth, the committee of local council heads in Arab communities discussed the rising death toll in road accidents, especially in relation to the death of three residents of the northern Arab village of Dir Hana on Road 805 on Thursday.

The committee has decided, in conjunction with the heads of the local councils of Dir Hana, Sakhnin and Arabeh, to rally next Wednesday at Yuvalim Junction, and urge the Ministry of Transport to allocate funds to road works on Road 805, which is dubbed "Blood Road" by locals.