Statement by the Director
The State of Israel is characterized by two separate economies, with a superficial connection between them. While Arabs, Druze and Circassians constitute approximately 20% of the population, their contribution to the Gross Domestic Product is only 8%. The reasons for this gap are multiple and are the result, inter alia, of existing barriers – lack of equal opportunities or proper infrastructures, inaccessibility to capital or barriers relating to the Arab society itself, such as the small number of women working outside their residential areas, low education among the workforce, etc. Over the past several years, the Government has invested resources in the development of infrastructures in the Arab, Druze and Circassian communities, but they have not succeeded in realizing the full potential of this population. Therefore, there is a need to promote plans and invest resources in the development of economic tools which will assist in the enhancement of economic activity within the minority communities. Simultaneously, steps must be taken by Government ministries and local authorities to place the issue of the Arab, Druze and Circassian communities at the top of the national agenda and include leaders from within these populations in the communities' economic development.
The Prime Minister's Office Authority for the Economic Development of the Arab, Druze and Circassian Sectors was established for this purpose.
I believe that the Authority can serve as a Government body engaged in research and coordination – a body which initiates, formulates and advances economic plans, projects and tools aimed at enhancing economic activity within the Arab, Druze and Circassian communities and contributing to the further integration of these populations in the national economy, thus minimizing the gaps between the sectors and creating "one economy" and "one state".
The Authority's Roles and Responsibilities
The Authority's main roles in the realm of economic advancement are as follows:
1. Developing financial tools to encourage entrepreneurship and investment in the minority sector, through, inter alia, encouraging the creation of private investment funds for minorities in the business sector, including through direct investment.
2. Advancing the integration of minority businesses in the overall economic activity.
3. Advancing the integration of local authorities in regional industrial zones.
4. Encouraging factories in the minority sector to become suppliers of services and goods for the Government.
5. Encouraging and promoting investment in the minority sectors.
6. Facilitating accessibility to Government aid.
7. Encouraging joint Arab-Jewish business activity.
8. Encouraging entrepreneurship by local authorities, through, inter alia, the preparation of detailed plans in the fields of economic development, increased investment, etc.
The Authority's main roles in the field of Government activity for the economic advancement of the minority sector will be as follows:
1. Preparing a report, in conjunction with the National Economic Council and the relevant Government ministries, regarding the proposed State budget prior to its submission to the Government, and the presentation of alternatives, if needed, on socio-economic issues relating to the minority sector.
2. Preparing professional opinions, in conjunction with the relevant ministries, regarding the possible effects of proposed socio-economic resolutions, currently on the Government agenda and its committees, on the minority sectors.
3. Coordinating an inter-ministerial team which comprises representatives of the Finance Ministry; the Ministry of Industry, Trade & Labor; the Ministry of Tourism; and Authority representatives, aimed at formulating and advancing economic development initiatives. The team will act as a professional sub-committee which will advise the Authority on issues relating to the promotion of economic initiatives.
4. Submitting an annual report to the Government regarding the socio-economic gaps between the sectors, and the Government activities to minimize these gaps.
The Authority's Advisory Council
Roles of the Advisory Council:
1.Advise the Director on the formulation of policies and goals on issues which fall under the Authority's jurisdiction.
2. Discuss the Authority's annual report.
3. Advise the Government, the Prime Minister and the Director, at their request, on any other issue relating to the Authority's fields of activity.
The Authority has an Advisory Council which comprises 23 members appointed by the Prime Minister:
1. One representative from among the senior employees of each of the following Government ministries, selected on the basis of a recommendation by the relevant minister: the Prime Minister's Office; the Ministry of Finance; the Ministry of Industry, Trade & Labor; the Ministry of Tourism; the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
2. Two public representatives with background and experience in the Authority's fields of activity.
3. Two representatives of national economic organizations.
4. Twelve prominent businesspeople and economic specialists, two from each of the following fields: industry; tourism; commerce and services; banking; real estate; hi-tech industries.
5. Two heads of local authorities responsible mostly for minority populations.
Projects in the Process of Implementation
1. Establishment of a private investment fund for the Arab sector.
2. Promotion of legislation.
3. Plan for the advancement of employment of Arab women.
4. Promotion of employment of academicians, in cooperation with "Kav Mashveh".
5. Opinion polls among Jewish and Arab businessmen.
6. Establishment of a database and research on issues relating to the economic development of the Arab sector.
7. Assistance in facilitating accessibility to Government services – promoting cooperation with the Investment Center and the Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Industry, Trade & Labor.
8. Establishment of a special internet site which will constitute a business meeting between people from both sectors who seek business opportunities (similar to the initiative of the Authority for Small Businesses