Remarks made by governor of the Bank of Israel Karnit Flug blaming the chareidim in Israel for the country’s slowed economic growth rate provoked an outraged response from United Torah Judaism and Shas on Monday.
“The challenge to growth in the coming years is enormous, because of two trends,” she said. “The rate of growth of the population of working age is expected to fall from 2.2% today to only 1.2% in 2050; and the growth in the proportion of the population with low rates of employment, Arabs and chareidim, is liable to shave 1.3 percentage points off the annual rate of growth.”
Flug said that getting chareidim and Arabs into the workforce was imperative. “Not only will we not advance, we will go backwards. We must improve their human capital. Even if they join the workforce, unless the human capital gap is closed, we are talking about low-paid employment.”
The banking chief spoke a day after Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics announced that the growth rate for the second half of 2013 was 2.8 percent — down from a 3.8 percent rate the previous year.
Shas leader Aryeh Deri called for her resignation. “In a normal country, such statements would have resulted in immediate dismissal.
“The governor of the Bank of Israel did something inexcusable — defaming an entire population in order to explain an economic situation for which she bears responsibility. It is unthinkable that a government official should express herself in such a manner, even if it is the trend to attack chareidim at every opportunity,” Deri said.
UTJ MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni, former head of the Knesset finance committee, said that it behooves Flug to know the facts and to inquire into the large number of chareidim who are blocked from employment both by government and private hirers, before she makes such statements. “The government does not lift a finger to remedy the situation and refuses to hire chareidim, including those with full credentials.”
UTJ MK Rabbi Yaakov Litzman charged that Flug’s comments stemmed from ignorance and that her attempt to blame chareidim was baseless. “It is incredible that she could find no one to blame for the country’s economic problems other than chareidi families. Such vile generalizations lead to hatred and bigotry.”