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August 26, 1994 - Image 74

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-08-26

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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inally, after more than two
years in office, the govern-
ment of Prime Minister
Yitzhak Rabin put its mark
on the Israeli economy. It broke
the strongest taboo in the coun-
try's financial life last week by
proposing a tax on the money
that investors make from the
stock market. The reaction: a feel-
ing that justice had been done,
but doubt over what such a tax
would do to the market.
At first, the question asked
most often was: Why did it take
so long? After all, employees are
taxed up to 50 percent on their
wages, business people have to
shell out heavily to the govern-
ment on their profits, but specu-
lators who get lucky on the stock
market are allowed to keep every
shekel. This, in a country that
gets criticized for being too so-
cialistic.

They listed all sorts of reasons,
leaving out one: They didn't like
paying taxes, especially a tax
they'd never had to pay before.
"We voted Rabin in because of
peace. Now we'll vote him out be-
cause of money," said one of the
more candid investors on Ahad
Ha'am Street, Israel's Wall
Street.
On Day One of trading after
the government's announcement,
the stock exchange fell by 10 per-
cent — the worst day in its his-
tory. Mr. Rabin and Finance
Minister Avraham Shohat came
under furious criticism from in-
vestors and the right-wing oppo-
sition for throwing the stock
exchange into a tailspin.
Likud leader Binyamin Ne-
tanyahu decried Mr. Rabin's "eco-
nomic zigzags" and "shamelessly
misleading statements." (The
prime minister had said two

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Traders at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange shout their sell orders.

The architect of the new poli-
cy, Finance Ministry director-
general Aharon Fogel, called the
tax on the stock exchange "a cor-
rection of the greatest injustice
that existed in the Israeli taxa-
tion system." It was hard to dis-
agree. "Thank God, the casino's
closed, and everybody's going to
have to work for a living," said
one woman at a Ramat Gan
shopping mall.
However, the players on the
Tel Aviv Stock Exchange were
screaming bloody murder. The
proposed tax — 10 percent on
gains made from winning stocks,
with no write-off for losses — was
structured unfairly, they cried. It
would drive people out of the
market, stop growth, stop priva-
tization, the timing was all bad.

months before that he would nev-
er tax the stock exchange.) Mr.
Netanyahu declared that the eco-
nomic furor would now be the fo-
cus of the opposition's political
campaign.
Nevertheless, that day the gov-
ernment approved the stock mar-
ket tax but bowed to public
pressure by adding an option
whereby investors could write off
their losses and pay a higher tax
on their gains. (The government
has not yet suggested how high.)
Then on Day Two, amid fears
that the market would continue
its plunge, the stock exchange
steadied and even climbed back
up by a little over 2 percent. Sud-
denly, the economy didn't seem
in such danger of collapse. The
government was breathing a lot

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