Trajtenberg Says More Money Won't Solve Demands, but Meetings Are a Step Forward

Trajtenberg saya he knows many more people wanted to speak to the committee, but if panel members continued with public meetings in current format, they would not be able to do their work.

The Trajtenberg Committee on socioeconomic reform met Tuesday with the public at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem - the forum's sixth and final meeting in its current format of involving the public.

The committee's chairman, Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, said, "I very much hope that what is happening here will not be the end in terms of involving the public. We want to march toward participatory democracy that is not one-time. I ask the public for a bit of patience. Now we are going down into the bunker and working. That is what you expect, and that is our responsibility."

Trajtenberg said he knew many more people wanted to speak to the committee, but that if the panel members continued with public meetings in the current format, they would not be able to do their work. He asked that the panel be judged by the quality of its report.

Committee members present at Tuesday's meeting, in addition to Trajtenberg, were Eyal Gabbai, the director general of the Prime Minister's Office; Esther Dominicini, head of the National Insurance Institute; and economist Dr. Tali Regev of Tel Aviv University.

The committee received some 5,000 letters through various channels, Trajtenberg said yesterday, of which about 700 were well-formulated position papers and requests to appear before the committee. Trajtenberg said that because of the panel's tight schedule, only a few of those people would be invited to speak before the panel.

"I intend, in the recommendations section of the report, to suggest that this type of format, of joint meetings with the public, become the permanent interaction between the arms of government and the public."

Trajtenberg said the idea that all problems could be solved by money is "an illusion." He added: "In 1985, they thought that everything could be solved by 'opening the faucet' - and inflation went up to 400 percent."

"Most of the problems brought before the committee - money won't help them," Trajtenberg said.

A variety of public representatives appeared before the committee yesterday. Among them was Prof. Dan Ben-David, executive director of the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies, who said, "Thirty years ago, we resembled the OECD in terms of participation in the workforce. Now something very bad is happening, and the rate of participation of men has declined."

Ben-David also rated the level of education in Israel "at the bottom of the Western world," and said that education levels among Israel's Arabs were below those of Kazakhstan and Indonesia.

Nili Even-Chen, deputy director for economics in the Movement for Quality Government, told the committee that it should bring about "the democratization of capital," and that "NIS 1.1 billion is being managed by 10 or 20 families."

A representative of the parents' protest against the high cost of living, Rachel Azaria, told the committee that day care for ages 3 to 4 should be extended to 4 P.M., and more centers should be created so competition will bring prices down.