At the end of a first day of the "Globes" Israel Business Conference, a gala evening was held with the theme "The New Globes - Evolution, Revolution, or More of the Same?", against the background of the change in ownership of "Globes", and in the presence of Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon. "Globes" co-owner and chairperson Alona Bar-On was interviewed by journalist Gal Gabai about her vision for the future. Ola Baker Salameh, CEO of Sebana Medical and representative of the 40/40 Young Leadership in Israel movement also spoke.
Kahlon's remarks in his interview with "Globes" editor-in-chief Naama Sikuler were interrupted by protesters who shouted slogans about housing prices and disabled people's rights. Kahlon said that in the state budget about to be presented to the government, there was a 9% increase for items such as public housing and support for the disabled. He said it was a budget that addressed growth and investment.
"The economy is growing, and this enables us to give more. Naturally, as soon as the economy grows there is extra activity and extra revenue from tax collection, and that has been the story of the economy in the past few years. There's growth, the fiscal deficit is low, and I hope that we shall manage to maintain a low deficit next year too," Kahlon said.
"One of the things that stimulates growth is tax cuts. 'Unless you raise taxes by NIS 8 billion…' they told me, but tax revenues have only increased and growth has risen. If you understand that it's worthwhile for people to produce, to work, and to invest, there's more money in the economy."
There are constant demands to increase the defense budget. Is there a chance of raising the growth rate while the budget is so high?
"The defense budget is fixed for five years, so there are practically no demands. There are projects of one kind or another, but we're currently working according to that framework, not moving from it. The multi-year program is working well. That's the solution."
Even though defense minister Liberman now wants a budget supplement.
"It's natural that we should have a twelve-hour discussion about it, but in the end we'll get there."
You're turning out to be a pretty generous finance minister. We're used to finance ministers being unpopular because they make cuts.
"Were we need to become more efficient we're doing so, and where we need to cut, we cut, but I believe we have to deal with revenue as well as with expenditure. We introduced voluntary disclosure and we dealt with personal service company tax benefits. That's the way to maintaining a stable and responsible economic policy. Once we give a push to revenue, and the forecasts are for high revenues, that enables us to spend more"
You once said that minister of finance was your dream job. Is that still the case?
"It's fascinating and it’s a very influential job. A minister of finance is not a treasurer. I have a clear economic policy, and so I succeed in promoting the causes in which I believe. I'm not a breaker-up of coalitions."
When you don't do what's expected of you, you get it in the neck.
"When I saw my coalition partners seeking all kinds of things like overriding the Supreme Court, in the course of coalition negotiations I added that there could be no change in the makeup of the Supreme Court, not by legislation, without our approval, that is, a right of veto. I see it as a compliment that we're sitting here and people are yelling at us. That's democracy."
But it's unmistakable that there are things in this coalition that you find unacceptable.
"I didn't support the 'French law' (giving immunity from prosecution to the prime minister), or change in the composition of the judicial selection committee. Just as I pass laws that some in the coalition don't like, but they support it. As long as I'm a partner in the coalition, I'm bound by the coalition agreements. Things I can live with."
If you found that you couldn't look at yourself in the mirror, would you break the coalition up?
"The fact is that I stopped several things, the meddling with the broadcasting corporation, the bill on overriding the Supreme Court. We were on the brink of elections but I didn't pull back."
Is the Likud Central Committee of today the Central Committee we used to know?
"You won't hear from me bad things about the home I grew up in."
Housing is an important part of your ticket. It can't be said that you're not doing anything, but it's possible to wonder whether you're succeeding. There's something abnormal about what's happening.
"At the moment we're at a 2.6% annual price rise, and I have no doubt that that will decrease. We're talking in relation to a rise of 8-9%. I have no doubt that as time goes by, things will move towards a solution. I see a halt and a fall. The direction is right. I don’t know if it will take two years or three, but we're working to bring prices down and provide homes for young people."
Are you and Netanyahu on good terms?
"It's not no."
You and Gabbay?
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on January 11, 2018
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