Israel’s Finance Minister: We can’t afford a second lockdown

As scientists speculate about the likelihood of a second wave of coronavirus infections, Israel’s Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon says a second lockdown would mean total economic collapse.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

As Israel slowly eases coronavirus restrictions and more Israelis return to work, Israel’s Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon warned that even if there was a new wave of infections, a second lockdown would destroy Israel’s economy.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis in March, more than one million Israelis were fired or placed on unpaid leave, and the unemployment rate in the Jewish state has reached an all-time high of 26 percent.

In a panel discussion with health and economic experts Saturday night, Kahlon said that if Israel faces a second wave of coronavirus infection, a lockdown cannot be imposed on the country again. Israel Hayom reported that Kahlon said that another lockdown would lead to a total collapse of the economy and irreversible damage to the country.

Kahlon said he estimated that 90 percent of Israelis placed on unpaid leave during the crisis will eventually return to work, and “10 percent of unemployed Israelis will have to change professions.”

“The job market will not return to the way it was before the coronavirus crisis. We are going to have a new world of employment, with a lot of work from home and remote work, but citizens will not remain unemployed. We have allocated a lot of money for vocational training and vocational change.”

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Kahlon continued, “The economy will not survive another lockdown. If, God forbid, there’s a second wave of infections, we cannot impose a lockdown like we did the first time.”

“The economy can’t take any more damage, and we will not act out of fear. We’ll have to learn to live with the coronavirus, and to learn lessons from the first lockdown. If we repeat the same steps we took with the first wave, the economy will totally collapse.”

Kahlon, whose term as finance minister is set to end with the inauguration of the new government on Wednesday, has come under fire in recent weeks for not advocating on behalf of the economy and Israel’s workers during the crisis.

Defending himself, Kahlon said, “I prevented the economic collapse. I pushed for the reopening of the country. And the struggle to save the economy was critical. The Israeli economy doesn’t have an insurance policy.”

“We entered the crisis with tens of billions of shekels in our reserves. This is due to the long-term policies I put in place during my tenure as finance minister. Thanks to this, we were able to distribute 80 billion shekels in our economic recovery plan. We were also able to provide benefits to self-employed people, workers placed on unpaid leave, and others.”

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“In order to handle the biggest economic crisis the country has ever faced,” said Kahlon, “I didn’t try to get my picture in the newspaper or speak up at press conferences. Instead, I worked and worked to get our economy out of crisis.”