MK Bitan Presents Bills for Contending With Cost of Living

MK David Bitan, chairman of the Economic committee leads a Committee meeting at the Knesset, on Monday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

​The Economic Affairs Committee, chaired by MK David Bitan (Likud), convened on Monday for a meeting on the topic of the cost of living, following a series of debates on the issue held at the initiative of Committee Chairman MK Bitan. At the start of the debate, Bitan welcomed the Prime Minister’s decision to form a ministerial committee under his leadership for combating the cost of living, noting that it was the Economic Affairs Committee that put the issue on the agenda in the past months.

Bitan said further: “It’s not the Economic Affairs Committee’s job to engage in this battle and to enact laws, it’s the job of the Government, the Minister of Finance, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Economy. We still haven’t seen proposals that are contending with the problem now and can lower prices now. The fact that there is a desire to fight against the monopolies is very important; the battle against the cost of living is a long-term battle and takes effect slowly. But I asked the Minister of Finance to stop the increase in the price of supervised dairy products, and I warned that if that doesn’t happen it will lead to a large price increase, and that’s what happened.

“As we promised, next week we will introduce bills, the first of which is a bill equalizing the VAT on food to the OECD [VAT level], up to 8%. Another bill will address the banks, dealing indirectly with people who have a mortgage on a first apartment of up to 1.5 million shekels; these people will receive income tax credits in order to cope with the increase in the interest rate. In addition, regarding banks that don’t give customers benefits on deposits — we will present a bill that will raise the tax on profits stemming from interest rate increases. If the banks don’t want to pay a tax, let them give benefits in interest on the deposits.

“Additionally, I’m disappointed with the Ministry of Transport for not dealing with the increase in parking fees in Tel Aviv. We have understood that the Tel Aviv Municipality isn’t interested in this, so I asked to prepare a bill that cancels this increase and abolishes the law that allows local authorities to raise parking fees without consent from anyone. In addition, we will consider transferring 30% of parking fines to the Police Traffic Department for the benefit of road safety,” said the committee chair.

MK Bitan summed up by saying that these bills would be presented next week, and noted: “We gave the Ministry of Finance a chance to deal with this and they didn’t do it, so we’re free to do as we see fit. You can tell the Minister of Finance and the director of the Ministry of Finance’s Budget Department that there will be more legislation.”

The committee then discussed the conclusions of the team headed by MK Rabbi Eliyahu Baruchi (United Torah Judaism), which examined ways of lowering prices in retail chains. In the course of the debate, MK Baruchi presented issues such as the costs of bottle recycling, food imports, product placement and more.

Bitan also commented on the fact that the retail chains had raised the prices of dairy products prior to Shavuos, saying that a way should be found to prevent them from making price hikes without a reason. “If they raised the price before the chag and lowered it immediately afterwards, there should be fines, this story is impossible,” said MK Bitan. A Ministry of Finance representative replied that the public committee that had been formed to examine market concentration would also scrutinize this issue.

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