Israeli Poll: Majority say free enterprise, less red tape key to prosperity

Those worried about the cost of living also say that privatization will lower housing prices more than any government program.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Most Israelis feel that freeing up the markets and eliminating bureaucracy would help them most economically, according to a poll commissioned by the Ayn Rand Center in Israel (ARCI), Israel Hayom reported on Wednesday.

Fully 40 percent of the respondents say that cutting red tape and privatizing land would significantly lower the price of housing, which is a major contributor to the high cost of living in Israel.

Although nearly 60 percent knew of the government’s affordable housing program called “Buyer’s Price,” only nine percent thought it was the best solution to the problem.

Buyer’s Price lets first-time homeowners participate in lotteries in which the winners can buy apartments at less than market price. Its target population are young couples, but the poll showed that almost half (47%) of those aged 18-34 didn’t know anything about the program.

Surprisingly, 14 percent of those who did know say that it had aggravated their economic situation, while only eight percent said it had helped them. In the 35-54 age group, those figures were nine percent and five percent, respectively.

The Arab sector was most satisfied with the program, which is the brainchild of Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, with 15 percent of those who were familiar with it saying that it had improved their financial situation.

Twice as many Arabs preferred continued government intervention in the form of housing subsidies over others in their sector who chose land privatization as an economic answer (42%-20%).

Among Jewish respondents, more answered that free enterprise was the better solution, the poll found. Even among those lower on the socioeconomic scale, almost a third preferred getting rid of bureaucracy over putting more money into the government program. Among the ultra-Orthodox, this number jumped to 46 percent.

Privatizing other areas of the economy was also important to the respondents: In transportation, about three-quarters want to break Israel Railroads’ monopoly and let other companies compete with taxi services. Seventy percent would like to see the food market challenged by more imports.

The poll also asked about the people’s view of the Israeli Army. A vast majority of Israelis (85%) want to raise the salaries of soldiers performing their mandatory service. About half support turning the “people’s army” into a professional one that offers salaries which compete with the private sector.

ARCI promotes the reduction of government regulations in order to increase personal and economic liberty in Israeli society. It commissioned the Geocartographia survey ahead of its Freedom Conference being held in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.