PM Outlines Plan to Rescue 250,000 Poor

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert presented his new socioeconomic agenda for 2008-2010 at a press conference yesterday. Abraham Hirchson was also in attendance, after an extended absence from public media events. The plan, prepared by the National Economic Council headed by Professor Manuel Trachtenberg, will be brought for government approval this Sunday.

The plan is not, in fact, a new one, but a compendium and superficial analysis of government decisions on socioeconomic issues that have been approved over recent years. The only innovation in the plan is the announcement that in 2008-2010 the government will adopt two new socioeconomic goals - the reduction of poverty and increase of employment rates - along with two customary goals, the deficit and inflation. There are currently no budgetary sources to implement the plan, and Olmert promised that a committee would be formed shortly to establish them.

According to the plan, meeting the goal of decreasing poverty should result in the reduction of poverty rates from the current 20.2 percent of all families, to 17.2 percent in 2010. As a result, about 60,000 families, or 242,000 persons which include 115,000 children, will rise above the poverty line, reaching poverty rates prevailing 10 years ago.

The second goal, increased employment among individuals aged 25-65 should raise employment rates from the current 68 percent to 71 percent, adding 92,000 employees to the workforce. The successful implementation of the plan will increase employment rates to the average rates prevailing in OECD countries. Reduction of poverty and increased employment are conventional objectives sought by most developed countries.

Trachtenberg admits that the plan means that structural reforms that Israel's economic policy has focused on in the past 20 year, will decrease in importance, and perhaps even come to a halt. "After 20 years of amazing structural reforms that have changed the face of the Israeli economy and enabled it to become more efficient and grow, it is time to take a break from the reforms lest we lose our focus on the battle to achieve two central goals," he sai