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Liberman says ‘no money handouts’ for businesses, insists economy doing well overall

Finance minister says situation is ‘as good as we could have dreamed,’ expresses doubt that Omicron wave has collapsed businesses ‘within 20 days’

Yisrael Beytenu party chairman Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on January 10, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Yisrael Beytenu party chairman Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on January 10, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman pushed back on Tuesday against criticism over his opposition to government compensation for businesses hurting from the latest COVID-19 outbreak.

In an interview with Kan news, Liberman said the past few weeks of surging infections and some restrictions were not enough to severely harm businesses.

“I don’t think that within 20 days it is possible to reach a situation of existential risk and collapse,” Liberman said, referring to the latest wave.

He insisted the economy was “as good as we could have dreamed” in 2021.

“There is no doubt that people and businesses are hurting, my heart is with them, but on the whole our economy at the moment is still in a good situation,” Liberman said.

“We won’t abandon anyone, but there won’t be money handouts.”

Liberman also issued a fresh call to scrap the “Green Pass,” which limits entry to certain venues and activities to those with immunization certificates or negative tests.

“It doesn’t correspond to reality. People are prepared to take responsibility in terms of everything that is imposed on them, whether it is a mask or vaccines,” he said.

The coronavirus ward of Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem, on January 20, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Omicron has caused a staggering number of infections in Israel in recent weeks, forcing the government to recalibrate its pandemic policies, but Liberman has adamantly resisted payouts to businesses.

Some business areas, such as the tourism and entertainment industries, have been particularly hard hit throughout the pandemic, including in recent weeks. The huge numbers of Israelis in quarantine have also disrupted commerce.

Reports by the OECD and Dun & Bradstreet analyst group have said recently that Israel’s economy has rebounded strongly, was performing better than the global average, and would likely continue to do well.

Earlier this month, Liberman rebuffed a business association seeking government compensation for steep losses due to COVID-19 policies, dismissing the complaints as unfounded and warning that there would be no large rescue packages.

The Finance Ministry earlier this month approved a compensation plan for workers who are forced into quarantine.

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