Not enough hospital beds, not enough hospitals, not enough MRI and CT machines, not enough social workers, not enough inspectors for construction sites to prevent accidental deaths, not enough rape crisis centers, not enough financial assistance for handicapped people who live below the poverty line, not enough money for Holocaust survivors to live in dignity, pay for medications and their other domestic needs, not enough teachers because their salary is so low and classroom size is so large, not enough skilled people to meet the 21st century skill set demands, not enough doctors, not enough nurses, long waits for medical tests, not enough incentives to use public transportation, not enough Jewish ethical policies for the “strangers” that live amongst us, not enough reasonably priced food, not enough law enforcement, not enough competition in the economic markets, Our “security” Prime Minister hasn’t even provided enough or secure enough bomb shelters, not enough regulation for pre-school education, not enough government accountability, not enough government transparency, not enough supervision for private day care centers….the list of “not enoughs” goes on and on and on….
In short, our government has neglected Israeli citizens’ social welfare for the past 10-15 years according to the Taub Center for Social Policies in Israel. For a country considered to have a “very highly developed economy”, Israel is not investing nearly enough in social welfare programs to combat poverty, inequality or to limit the hardships people live with. Israel spends 16% of its GDP on social welfare programs compared to 21% to 32%. To be a healthy, more equal, secure and thriving country, all of the basic needs stated above means that Israel’s government needs to increase its expenditure quite a bit. Major causes of less social investing are corruption and politically motivated budgeting rather than budgets based on the needs of the public. What is obviously not understood by the government is that what is invested now in social welfare comes back many fold in productivity, community stability, citizen wellbeing, reduction in crime, and lower health expenditures.
The government has made us “fryerim”. Instead of properly funding social welfare programs, the government leaves it to NGO’s and charities to fill in the funding deficits. I receive solicitation calls every week from charities seeking donations. It’s painful to turn them down but by supporting them we let the government off the hook.
The Taub Center has found that 80% of our social welfare budget goes to outsourced NGOs and private organizations over the last 10-15 years. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services has become estranged from the public it is meant to serve, diminishing their familiarity with our social problems. Over the years many delayed governmental budget approvals and disbursements has also impacted NGO’s by interrupting their revenue source, severely lessening their ability to meet the needs of the population they are trying to serve. Did you know that one third of the children in Israel live below the poverty line? That inequality between the “haves and the have nots” is much higher here than in any other OECD country. Leket Israel founded by Joseph Gitler “understands that poverty refers to people that work for a living yet struggle to survive on a daily basis and still remain below the poverty line. Leket which normally provides 10,000 meals to needy people and families has been severely impacted by corona and needs to now purchase 95% of these meals instead of receiving them for free. In addition, Israel ranks 6th amongst the 39 OECD countries for having the concentration of its wealth in the hands of the top 1% of the population. We can boast that Israel has a very comprehensive health system and it should also be well known that the system is very neglected in its infrastructure and manpower as we’ve experienced and heard during this Corona crisis but it’s not limited to Corona times, the neglect has been for more than a decade. The Israeli government is counting on the NGOs and the for-profit organizations far more than it should in meeting the needs of our population according to Johnny Gal Social Welfare policy program chair at Taub Center.
It’s time for all of us to stand up, protest, and demand our taxes be invested in our public needs and not in special interests. We need to connect the dots between the government policies, expenditures and our quality of living. We need to peacefully protest in the streets to show our outrage at being cheated and treated as fryerim. We need to vote in politicians that care about all of us and not only the 1% at the top. As Adva Center states so well, ” It’s high time for a turnabout in public policy that places the public interest at the center.”
Enough of being fryerim!!!! We all deserve more.