/Economy Minister Cohen: Were taking on the monopolies

Economy Minister Cohen: Were taking on the monopolies

Minister of Economy and Industry Eli Cohen dismisses claims that his ministry does not do enough about the cost of living. “It is true that there has been a wave of price rises. We have been dealing with monopolies for the past three years. We’re not afraid of them – not of the tycoons, and not of the exclusive importers,” he told the Globes Business Conference today. “The state also has to contribute its share. Electricity prices won’t rise 7%, and not 5%,” he added.

Commenting on the yellow vest protest and the criticism by Yesh Atid leader MK Yair Lapid and Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay, Cohen said, “As a model, Lapid wears the yellow vest very well, it suits him, but what did he do to break the monopolies when he was Minister of Finance? None of us would have agreed to be a bank presenter, either. Gabbay headed Bezeq, an oppressive monopoly that owned Pelephone, which charged the most piggish prices. Who broke the monopoly? Kahlon. The camel doesn’t see his own hump.”

Responding to criticism for participating in the launching of Shufersal Ltd.’s (TASE:SAE) “Be” drugstore brand, Cohen said, “I’ll go anywhere to encourage competition. Instead of talking about the launch, talk about the alternative created in the market.”

He also commented on the plan to appoint a committee to examine the cost of living, headed by Prof. Yaron Zelekha, which was criticized because Zelekha has represented many concerns, such as marketing chains, workers’ committees, and so on. “We wanted to appoint someone who could give the best advice on monopolies. If there’s a problem with a conflict of interest, we’ll approach others on this matter,” Cohen said, dismissing the argument that they could simply have relied on the recommendations by the preceding committee.

Cohen also mentioned a possible expansion plan by Intel that the company announced early this week. He said that the state had already allocated an additional 300 dunam (75 acres) for expanding the fab in Kiryat Gat, besides the expansion announced by the company in February.

“I think that consumers also have a responsibility. The OECD reported that prices fell 5.5% in 2016-2017. This is a result of lowering customs duties, cutting VAT by 1%, and the Food Law. This isn’t enough, however – this week, Rami Levy told me that a basket of branded products cost NIS 700, while exactly the same basket with the supermarket chains’ private labels costs only NIS 460,” Cohen added.

Published by Globes, Israel business news – en.globes.co.il – on December 20, 2018

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