Austerity Budget at the Supermarket

YERUSHALAYIM -

A new survey confirms fears that the government’s austerity measures will cause significant material hardship for the average Israeli.

Approximately one in four Israeli families is looking at a reduction in food spending as a result of the state budget passed on Monday night, according to data gathered by YEDID (the Association for Community Empowerment), quoted in The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

About 11 percent said they will also have to cut down on medicine, 39 percent said they will be forced to skimp on clothing expenses, and 35 percent reported they are planning cutbacks in cultural activities.

On “questions concerning education and medical expenses, there were no differences between the answers of respondents with different income levels, which may be due to the perception that these kinds of expenses are basic needs and cannot be reduced regardless of wealth,” the NGO said.

Ran Melamed, deputy director of YEDID, said, “The new budget includes a series of economic policies that lead to change in the economic balance of households, which are expected to absorb an average damage of NIS 500 to 1,000 a month.

“People will buy less food and cut back on food products with high nutritional values such as dairy, meat, vegetables and fruits,” Melamed said. “Israel will buy less and eat less well. Those who will be harmed are mostly children, the elderly and expectant mothers.”

Dorit Adler, director of nutrition and diet at Hadassah University Medical Center in Yerushalayim, also addressed the survey and said the government should act immediately to set a “healthy food basket,” in which products will be made significantly cheaper either by a system of price controls or by reducing the value-added tax (currently 18 percent) on them.

At a national conference of nonprofit food agencies at Tel Aviv University on Monday, hosted by Latet (Humanitarian Aid and Leket Israel), the government’s recent commitment to allocate NIS 200 million toward addressing nutritional insecurity was discussed. Leket’s CEO, Gidi Kroch, said, “After many years of empty promises, we are seeing a renewed interest and focus in the Welfare Ministry [on the issue].

“We are hopeful that this will lead to changes, where the government, together with the Welfare Ministry, will take responsibility for Israeli citizens who are insecure about food,” he said.