by Zvi Zrahiya | Haaretz | 1 April 2004
The Housing and Construction Ministry transferred NIS 846 million to fund the construction of 2,568 housing units in the Gaza Strip and West Bank from 1990 and 2003, according to data provided by the Treasury on Thursday.
The funds were used to provide mortgages for the unions constructing the housing units.
Regulations require that mortgages be repaid within four years of the day the aid was received. But according to Treasury data provided to Knesset Finance Committee member MK Haim Oron (Meretz) , some NIS 300 million of the money has yet to be repaid to state coffers. In response, Oron appealed to State Comptroller, retired judge Elizer Goldberg, to investigate the matter.
According to the Treasury data, it appears that government aid provided in 1997-1998 for constructing houses in the territories, via unions, was NIS 220,000 for each housing unit. In 1999, government aid for each housing unit using this method stood at NIS 250,000 per unit, and in 2002 the figure stood at NIS 240,000 for each housing unit.
Each citizen who fails to repay a debt faces legal consequences and various penalties, said Oron, but different rules seem to apply in the territories. In the territories, loans need not be repaid, unions that have to pay back loans do not repay them, no one stands trial, and the Treasury even rewards the debt with a subsidized interest of 4 percent per year for a period of 25 years, Oron said. He added that hundreds of millions of shekels were transferred to settlements over the years, despite the fact that at present, the prime minister knows that some of them will be evacuated.
Oron said that it is very peculiar that only a few weeks ago, the Knesset Finance Committee approved a request from the Finance Ministry and Housing and Construction Ministry to transfer millions of additional shekels for the construction of housing units in the territories with government aid, despite the fact that the Treasury knows that the houses are standing empty.
Additional data shows that presently there are 1,822 housing units constructed using loans given by the state to the unions, but the houses have yet to be sold.