January 27, 2023

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Smotrich Nixes Taxes on Sugary Drinks and Plasticware

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The first move by the new Finance Minister, Bezalel Smotrich, came on Sunday when he instructed ministry officials to roll back the increase in taxes on sweetened drinks and single-use plasticware.

The hikes had been put in place by Avigdor Liberman, his predecessor. The Finance Ministry issued a statement, which said that Smotrich had given the instructions in his first meeting as the minister.

The orders

It said that officials had been informed to cancel the sugary drink tax and the single-use plasticware tax in the coming days that the outgoing government had imposed.

At the beginning of the meeting, Smotrich had told the officials that he had faith in them. Reports indicated that he had talked about establishing a deep and open dialogue between them.

The new minister had also said that they would make professional decisions that would help in boosting the country’s economy for benefitting all the citizens.

The tax hikes had been implemented for prevent harm to the environment and health, but ultra-Orthodox Israelis are reliant on these products.

Therefore, they had thought that the hikes were targeting them in particular. Smotrich’s move received approval of Haredi lawmakers, as they had rallied against the taxes repeatedly and had demanded same in coalition negotiations.

The praises

The Israel Tax Authority has disclosed that removing these charges would lead mean that the treasury suffers an annual loss of about NIS 1.2 billion.

MK Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism appreciated the decision of reversing what he claimed was ‘the Liberman tax’.

He said that this had been one of the promises they had made and they had accomplished this as soon as the government was established.

MK Uri Maklev, also of United Torah Judaism, said that after the cancelation of the tax, they would take action in education and public campaigns for consuming heathy drinks and protecting the environment.

The criticism  

Tamar Zandberg, the former environmental protection minister, panned the decision and accused the government of destroying the health and environment over petty politics.

Zandberg said that the decision to nix these taxes had sent them back light years rather than moving forward. He also added that it would result in disease and pollution.

The decision was also not welcomed by the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, which said that it would harm public health and the country would just end up becoming a big landfill.

The Israeli Association of Public Health Physicians referred to the reversal as blind and unfortunate. It said that even though ultra-Orthodox claimed that the tax targeted them, the data showed otherwise.

It added that the health and finance ministries presented data, which highlighted that the consumption of sweetened drinks had reduced due to the tax and this was beneficial for all Israelis.

Other experts also did not appreciate the rollback and called out the politicians for playing with the lives of people.

Handover ceremonies had been held by outgoing ministers on Sunday with their successors in the freshly sworn-in government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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