Israeli economic planners turned their attention northward on Monday, with the announcement of an NIS 15 billion plan to raise the standard of living in the north of the country to bring it more in line with the historically more affluent center.
“We are determined to bring the same standards as are considered the norm in the center of the country to the north as well,” said Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon at a ceremony in Maalot-Tarshiha.
“The distance from the center of Israel must not mean gaps in services to citizens. It is impossible to speak of a single society without solving once and for all the problem of the link between distance from the center and social gaps. After years of investment in the center and the Negev, the north’s time has come. I am certain that this plan is a large step in the direction of realizing these aims.”
Minister of the Interior and of the Development of the Negev and Galil Rabbi Aryeh Deri promised: “In the coming years, the north will receive billions of shekels in aid from the government in all areas so that the most beautiful region in the country will be strengthened and will prosper. I am certain that these large investments will make the north stronger and more flourishing.”
Israel suffers from some of the severest inequalities between the center and the periphery among OECD countries, according to figures released in November. The new plan seeks to strengthen infrastructure, promote industry, employment and R&D, as well as finance improvements in the public health system and raise educational standards.
More specifically, NIS 12 billion will be earmarked for infrastructure, including large transport projects such as a light rail connecting Haifa to Nazareth, extension of the Metronit lines from Haifa to surrounding towns, and the paving, upgrading and widening of roads and interchanges. NIS 600 million will be invested in efforts to attract private-sector investment in the north. NIS 1 billion will go to education — to pay for extending school hours, school construction, and expansion of academic institutions. NIS 900 million will be allocated to health services, building hospital wards and, in the national plan, for shortening waits for health services.
In addition to state funding, the JNF has committed to putting in NIS 400 million to projects to encourage research, construction of student accommodation, tourism infrastructures, housing projects, and construction of health facilities.