Ministry Name Change Bad Sign, Manufacturers Association Says

YERUSHALAYIM -

Israeli manufacturers have a grievance against Naftali Bennett that began a year ago when he changed the name of the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry to the Economy Ministry.

“We’re very angry over the name change,” Zvi Oren, the president of the Manufacturers Association and head of the Federation of Israeli Economic Organizations, told Haaretz.

But someone needs to voice industry’s positions around the cabinet table, Oren says. “Bennett wants to deal with the cost of living, but that’s the role of the entire cabinet,” Oren says. “The economy minister’s role is to explain the effect on industry of every step under consideration, and that’s not happening. Bennett doesn’t understand that he needs to represent industry in the cabinet; for example, regarding a reform plan at the Israel Standards Institute or on reducing customs duties.”

Oren’s reference to customs duties was not haphazard. Bennett has being trying to reduce customs duties to increase competition from abroad and thereby lower prices, which has  Israel’s manufacturers shifting uneasily in their seats.

In response, the Economy Ministry says its goal is increasing competition while lowering the cost of living.

“The ministry represents all of Israel’s citizens, and its main aim is opening markets to competition, developing the Israeli economy and moving it to new accomplishments, while dealing with the cost of living and easing [the cost] to the Israeli consumer,” the ministry said in a statement.

“Accordingly, the ministry is working with a range of communities and entities, including the manufacturers. The ministry has been working for months to help the manufacturers via reduced regulations, capital investment, assistance to exporters and research and development. And we will continue to work on the issue in the future.”