Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon and Minister of the Interior, and Minister of the Development of the Negev and Galilee Aryeh Makhlouf Deri presented a government plan today for the economy of Israel’s northern region and for raising the standard of living there. Under the plan, government ministries and the JNF (Jewish National Fund) will invest some NIS 15 billion.
In early November, figures were released showing that gaps between Israel’s center and its periphery were among the widest of such gaps in the OECD countries, with health and education the most problematic areas. In the new plan, large budgets will be allocated for developing infrastructure, for encouraging industry, employment and R&D, for improving the public health system, for strengthening local government, and for raising the standard of school and higher education.
“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 Kahlon at a ceremony in Ma’alot-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.”
The plan, due to be brought before the government this Sunday, is based on economic studies showing substantial gaps in employment and earnings figures between the north and the rest of the country. The plan was formulated in cooperation with local authorities and representatives.
Under the plan, NIS 12 billion will be invested in infrastructure, including large transport projects such as a light rail connecting Haifa to Nazareth; extending the Metronit lines from Haifa to surrounding towns; paving, upgrading and widening of roads and interchanges. NIS 600 million will be invested in efforts to attract companies to the north. NIS 1 billion will be invested in education. The money will go to longer school hours, informal education, school construction, and expansion of academic institutions.
NIS 900 million will go to health services in the north, to be invested in building hospital wards and in the national plan for shortening queues for health services. Local government will receive NIS 220 million in development grants for weak local authorities and aid in various activities.
In addition to investment by the government, the JNF will allocate NIS 400 million to projects to encourage research, construction of student accommodation, tourism infrastructures, housing projects, and construction of health facilities.
Working teams led by Minister of Finance director-general Shai Babad will be set up to promote strategic measures such as transferring IDF bases and government companies to the north.