Israeli ministers have approved the state budget for the financial year 2001, cutting defence spending, Prime Minister Ehud Barak announced Monday.
"The Israeli government adopted the budget for the next financial year on Monday. It is a budget that will sustain growth, currently at five percent per year, and reduce social imbalance," he told a news conference, part of which was carried live on Israel radio.
He said the budget, submitted by Finance Minister Avraham Shohat, had been approved with nine votes in favor, two against and three abstentions.
"Unfortunately we have had to make cuts in defence, where we shall have to tighten our belts, because we have new priorities, and we have allocated 1.5 billion shekels (nearly $400 million) to social spending," he added.
Shohat defended his budget at the press conference, saying it "reflects the successful policies of the government, which has kept its promises by bringing the economy out of recession, creating jobs, promoting education and strengthening national infrastructure."
The total budget for next year starting January 1 is more than 194 billion shekels (about $50 billion.)
However, since Barak does not have a majority in parliament, he is likely to run into difficulties in getting MPs to approve it.
Prominent opposition MP Danny Naveh of the right-wing Likud party, criticised the draft budget, saying it was "deaf to social distress."
The Russian immigrant party, Israel B'Aliya, which has four MPs, reacted by saying it would put a censure motion before parliament as soon as it reconvenes at the end of October.
If Barak is unable to get the budget through, the state will function month by month on the basis of the previous year's budget divided into twelfths, which will effectively prevent the government from implementing any new policies. — (AFP)
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )