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December 4, 2016 / 4 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘debt’

Agreement Reached on PA $530 Million Electricity Debt

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

Following a year-long negotiation, Israel and the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday signed an outline for the resolution of the latter’s debt to the Israel Electric Company as well as the reorganization of the PA energy market. As part of the outline, the PA will transfer to the IEC about $150 million, out of an overall accumulated debt of $530 million, in return for an Israeli agreement to forgive about $132 million in accumulated interest. The rest will be paid by the PA in 48 payments over the next four years.

The agreement was signed at the Government Compound in Tel Aviv, by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, and the PA Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh.

The agreement places full responsibility for electric bills collection on the PA, which in the past rejected its responsibility for the debt, claiming it fell under the jurisdiction of local electricity distribution companies. This will enable the IEC to deal with just one PA customer, instead of the long list of power companies and individual clients it had been serving in the PA — and had difficulties collecting from. The mounting debt curbed the IEC’s capacity to develop and increase the power it was offering the PA economy. In fact, in an attempt to collect the debt, the IEC would initiate blackouts in various municipalities across the PA, and collected a portion of the taxes Israel collects for the PA on goods and income, which made things even worse for local economies and was fiercely criticized abroad.

Now Israel will pay the PA the more than $260 million it withheld on behalf of the IEC.

The Israeli Finance Ministry was delighted with the new agreement, stating that it will “establish a stable and fair commercial relationship between the IEC and the PA, introduce steps to guarantee full payment for future PA consumption, as well as facilitate new energy projects” for the economic development of the PA.

Minister Kahlon said at the signing that the new deal “will spare us many future disagreements and conflicts,” adding that “this is a first step on a long road and both sides are required to show dedication and decisiveness to complete the application of the outline.”

Minister Al-Sheikh said he hoped this negotiation would be one of many peace agreements between the PA and Israel.

JNi.Media

Report: Government Supports Electric Company Blackouts over PA Debt

Monday, August 8th, 2016

According to an Army Radio report, the Israeli government has altered its position on permitting the Israel Electric Company to halt service to various Arab cities in Judea and Samaria for lack of payment of an accrued debt reaching $450 million. The money is owed by the Jerusalem District Electricity Company (JDECO) and the Palestinian Authority. A few months ago, the IEC began a selective disconnection for a few days at a time of individual Arab cities, the PA appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court and the court placed an injunction on the practice pending a hearing.

The state has now responded to the PA cities’ petition,with a supporting statement by deputy head of the Israeli National Security Council Jacob Nagel, saying that while the government has the authority to order the IEC to continue providing electricity regardless of the Arabs’ huge debt, it also has the authority to approve of the blackouts as a means of encouraging payment, and as of now the concerned entities, including the political echelon, have decided to let the IEC do as it pleases to recoup the debt.

This marks a 180 degree change in Israel’s traditional policy which preferred to spend Israeli taxpayers’ money to pay for the PA deadbeats, to prevent a global protest of how the Israelis are depriving the Palestinians of electricity. In fact, it was the current head of Mossad, Yossi Cohen, who, back when he was head of the NSC, joined with then Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) to compel the IEC to bite the bullet and continue to provide free electricity to the PA.

This, according to the Army Radio report Monday, is no longer the government’s position. The Supreme Court injunction will remain in place for the time being, but once there is a hearing, the court would have to abide by the opinion of the sovereign government and permit the IEC to do what it takes to collect from its PA customers.

It could mean those PA folks would be stuck without their Internet connection and the world would be spared many gigabytes of incitement.

David Israel

The Debt Of Pidyon Haben

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

In this week’s parshah, the Torah tells us that Hashem told Aharon the laws of pidyon haben. The Rem (Yoreh De’ah 305:10) rules in the name of the Reivash that a person may not appoint a shliach to perform pidyon haben on his behalf.

Many Acharonim, however, disagree. Indeed, the Vilna Gaon states not only should a person be allowed to appoint a shliach to perform pidyon haben, but he should also be able to perform pidyon haben for another person even if he wasn’t appointed to do so. Pidyon haben should not be different than ma’aser sheini, he argues, concerning which the Rambam writes (in the fourth perek of Hilchos Ma’aser Sheini) that a person can redeem another’s ma’aser sheni without even having been appointed to do so. The Ritva (on Pesachim 7b) writes that the berachah that we recite on pidyon haben is “al pidyon haben” and – not “lifdos haben.” This is because others can perform it – even without the father’s knowledge.

The Vilna Gaon argues that that there is even more reason to permit doing pidyon haben via a shliach since pidyon haben is essentially repaying a debt. The Gemara (Bechoros 48) states that a kohen may collect the money of pidyon haben from the father’s property. This ruling implies that the money is owed as a debt, and since a person may repay another person’s debt, he should be allowed to pay the pidyon haben debt. The Vilna Gaon concludes that the only reason why one should not use a shliach is because it is always better to perform a mitzvah on one’s own than to have someone else perform it on one’s behalf.

Another proof that pidyon haben is a debt owed to a kohen come from Tosafos on Bechoros 49a. The Gemara says that after a firstborn son is 30 days old, money is owed to the kohen – even if the boy thereafter dies. This ruling only makes sense if the pidyon haben money is a debt since the mitzvah of pidyon haben no longer applies.

The Minchas Chinuch asks: If pidyon haben is a debt, why can’t a kohen forgive the money? The Minchas Chinuch concludes from this that indeed there is a mitzvah to give the money – similar to that of terumah – which cannot be forgiven.

The Maharsha (in Kesubos) state that a kohen can, in fact, forgive the debt of pidyon haben. This ruling seems to be in line with those who believe that pidyon haben is only a monetary debt, not a mitzvah to give the money. We can assume that the scenario to which the Maharsha is referring, that a kohen can forgive the debt of pidyon haben, is one of makerai kahunah (where the owner always gives his matanos to a specific kohen creating a monetary preference to that kohen).

The question of whether a kohen can forgive the debt of pidyon haben may be dependent on another question. How do we view the forgiving (mechilah) of a debt? One option is that when one says that the debtor doesn’t have to pay the debt, the debt is off. The other option is that when one says, “you don’t have to pay me,” we view it as if he has already received the money.

If forgiving a debt is only a means of removing the debt, one can argue that it should not work for pidyon haben. This is because the money is not owed to only one person, but rather to the entire sheivet of kohanim; one kohen should not be able to remove a debt that is owed to the entire sheivet. However, if forgiving a debt is considered as if he has received the money, one kohen can forgive the money. This is because it is no different than if he had actually received the money –in which case the debt is off.

Rabbi Raphael Fuchs

How to Avoid Drowning in Student Loan Debt

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

One of the biggest problems facing young adults today is student loan debt and the cost of higher education.

David Carlson, founder of the millennial personal finance blog Young Adult Money and author of Hustle Away Debt, discusses whether debts incurred by tuition fees are really worth it.

Find out how to get out of debt, what “side hustles” are, and how they can help you improve your financial situation.

Taking on personal debt is a personal decision. But what happens when governments take on too much debt?
Find out what Doug Goldstein CFP® thinks about Ben Bernanke’s book The Courage to Act: A Memoir of a Crisis and Its Aftermath.

How dependent is one of the world’s most powerful and influential economies upon one man, and is this always a good thing?

The Goldstein On Gelt Show is a financial podcast. Click on the player below to listen. For show notes and contact details of the guest, go to www.GoldsteinOnGelt.com

Doug Goldstein, CFP®

In New US – PA Talks on Recovering Debt Ridden Economy, Fingers Point at Israel

Saturday, May 21st, 2016

Palestinian Authority Economy Minister Abeer Odeh and US Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Charles Rivkin will meet Sunday in Ramallah for talks on developing the PA’s economy. At this point, the PA simply cannot pay its bills and is facing serious problems paying its government employees, from teachers to security forces. According to Trading Economics, in 2014 the PA recorded a Government Debt to GDP rate of 17.30% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. Government Debt to GDP in the PA has averaged 18.92% from 1995 until 2014, reaching an all time high of 26.36% in 2007 and a record low of 2.93% in 1995.

The economies of the PA and Gaza strongly depend on their relationship with Israel, so that when the Israelis feel safe to permit documented (and many undocumented) Arab workers into their country, the Arab economy improves. And when there’s a war or an intifada, the Arabs go without.

The Palestine Monetary Authority (PMA) most recent report, from 2014, shows high and rising levels of unemployment, which continued to be one of the main challenges to the economy. In 2014, it rose to 26.9%, compared to 23.4% in 2013. A main contributor was an exceptionally expanding rate in Gaza Strip, where unemployment reached 43.9%, compared to 32.6 percent in 2013, while the same rate declined in the PA from 18.6% to 17.7% during the same period. This rise in unemployment did not stop nominal daily wages from rising across different regions. Yet contradictory inflation trends have created discrepancies in real wage growth, as while real average daily wage for workers in the PA, and Israel and the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria improved by 0.9% and 5.6% respectively, real wages in Gaza declined by 1.5% during 2014.

The PA Arabs’ dependence of Israel was made all too clear this past winter, when The Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) announced the PA and individual Arab municipalities have racked up a debt of close to half a billion dollars which the company could no longer absorb. The debt was split about $400 million to $80 million between the PA and the cities respectively.

In April, the IEC reached a temporary agreement with the PA to put an end to the temporary power cuts it had been imposing on a succession of municipalities, in exchange for paying off a small portion of the overall debt. Meanwhile, the Arab-run Jerusalem District Electricity Company, which owes the IEC $371 million out of the debt, sued the IEC in Israel’s High Court last April, saying the IEC’s behavior constituted “collective and disproportionate punishment” and showed “blatant and harmful disregard for a public that pays its electricity bills regularly.” It also suggested the IEC’s power cuts compromised basic consumer rights to access an essential resource.

“I don’t know of any company that would agree to do nothing about a 1.74 billion shekel ($450 million) debt owed by another company,” IEC chairman Yiftah Ron Tal said at the time. “We weren’t left with any choice. We’re limiting electricity in a proportionate way.”

But the High Court of Justice paid no attention to the complaints of the Israeli CEO, and issued an interim injunction on prohibiting service cuts to the eastern Jerusalem Arab power company.

IEC responded to the ruling with an angry statement: “The Israel Electric Corporation respects the High Court ruling but demands the issue over the growing debts of JDECO which reach 1.4 billion shekel ($360 million) be resolved quickly. JDECO debts continue to grow to an astronomic figure; like any other business, it is the legitimate right and the responsibility of IEC to take the necessary measures to resolve a problematic debt which has been a burden for all Israeli electricity consumers.”

Israel’s ambivalence about collecting the debt from the Arabs in both Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem and Gaza has produced a reluctant and ineffective method of getting the money from the taxes and VAT Israel collects on Arab wages and products. As a result, Israel was rebuked this month by the World Bank for ruining the PA economy by, essentially, withholding money Israel is rightfully due.

The new World Bank report estimates that the Palestinian Authority is losing $285 million in revenues annually under the current economic arrangements with the Government of Israel. The report states that these revenues could significantly ease the Authority’s fiscal stress. As was to be expected, there is no mention in the condemning report of the half billion dollars in free power Israel has poured into the PA.

“If revenue losses are mitigated, this can reduce the 2016 fiscal deficit to below $1 billion, and narrow the expected financing gap by more than 50 percent,” Steen Lau Jorgensen, World Bank Country Director for West Bank and Gaza said in a press statement.

In other words, if only Israel agreed to take the half billion dollars from Israeli power consumers and let the PA Arabs continue to receive free electricity, an Arab economic miracle would be just a matter of time.

The report also cites irregularities on Israel’s part in conducting revenues clearance, which have not been systematically implemented. The revenue sharing arrangements, outlined by the 1994 Paris Protocol, through which the Government of Israel collects VAT, import taxes and other revenues on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, and shares them on a monthly basis, have not been systematically implemented.

The majority of the estimated fiscal loss results from tax leakages on bilateral trade with Israel, and undervaluation of PA imports from third countries. In other words, the Israelis have been running a messy tax and payment system, as well as a messy debt collection system.

JNi.Media

Shmita News: Knesset Committee Approves Bill to Erase Debts of the Destitute

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

(JNi.media) A new “Shmita Law,” releasing more than 20 thousand Israelis who are too poor to meet their debt obligations, has passed on Tuesday in the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice committee and is on its way to a House vote.

Every seven years, according to Torah law, on the year of Shmita (Heb: to drop), all financial debts are forgiven. The rabbis, seeing that a literal application of this law would bring the market to a halt, devised means of forcing debtors to pay up, but the principle by which people down on their luck get an opportunity to start over is important. Important enough to be on its way to becoming a law in Israel, and how fitting it is that the legislation will take place during 5775, which happens to be a Shmita year.

At the end of a long discussion Tuesday, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice committee, headed by MK Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) unanimously passed the “Shmita Law” which erases the debts registered with the Execution Office against thousands of Israelis with limited means, when there is no chance that they would return the debts to their creditors, Kalkalist reported.

The committee decided to apply the new law to those who have been defined as limited over the past four years, rather than over five years as stipulated in the original government bill, a change that increases the number of potential beneficiaries to 22 thousand.

The committee’s decision was unanimous.

The law was initiated in the current Knesset by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi), and has been merged with a bill offered by MK Merav Michaeli (Labor). According to the new law, debt write-offs will apply over the next three years to debtors whose overall outstanding debt is less than $210 thousand, and who do not owe more than $105 thousand to any single creditor, and they have complied with their assigned debt repayments for the previous three years.

In the current situation, borrowers who are unable to repay their debts can declare bankruptcy. But many debtors who come from disadvantaged population groups shy away from the bureaucratic complications involved. Instead, they submit to an examination of their financial ability by the Execution Office Registrar, who assigns them lower monthly payments according to their income.

But that level of payment is not enough to return the debt, and sometimes not even the interest, while in the meantime the debtor can’t use credit cards, open a bank account, establish a business or leave the country.

“About 22 thousand people, who have been living under the shadow of multiple debts and exorbitant interest rates can breathe a sigh of relief,” said Minister Shaked. “I congratulate the Constitution Committee, which approved the bill and contributed to a welcome change in Israel’s society and economy.”

According to estimates provided by the Justice Ministry in the past, the average debt of a person who is entitled to debt forgiveness is $65 thousand. Most of the debts are owed to institutions such as banks, government agencies and commercial companies.

Creditors are entitled to appeal to the Execution Office Registrar regarding debt erasure decisions.

JNi.Media

Argentine Prez Cristina Kirchner Doesn’t Get Why her Shylock Comment Angers Jews

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

(JNi.media) Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is in trouble over her evoking of William Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice” Jewish antagonist, Shylock, in an attempt to explain Argentina’s national debt to… schoolchildren.

Argentine Jews, needless to say, were not amused.

Kirchner told the kids that Argentina’s economic trouble could be understood by reading “The Merchant of Venice,” where the heartless Jewish moneylender seeks revenge on his nice, Christian debtors, whose only fault is that they took his money and wouldn’t give it back.

Kirchner tweeted that the idea had come to her after she asked the children what Shakespeare play they were reading and they told her: “Romeo and Juliet.”

And, so, she tweeted, “I said, you have to read the ‘Merchant of Venice’ to understand the vulture funds,” and that, apparently, made everybody laugh. So she tweeted, “No, don’t laugh, Usury and bloodsuckers have been immortalized in the greatest literature for centuries.”

The vulture banker, in case you haven’t been following the Argentine debt crisis over the past decade or more, is Jewish Billionaire Paul Singer, whom Kirchner and her Minister of the Economy Axel Kicillof have actually accused of behaving like a vulture — for insisting Argentina pay him back the $1.5 billion they owe him.

He’s dragged them through US courts, and has been beating them, to the point where the Argentine credit rating has been seriously curtailed. And when they offer him fistfuls of Argentine pesos he insists—Shylock that he is—on green bucks, which clearly spell, “In God we trust,” not in Argentine promissory notes.

This is, then, an ancient rivalry, and the President figured she was using humor to illustrate financial matters for the little ones.

Kirchner would not apologize, and instead tweeted an ad for “The Merchant of Venice” which was performed two years ago in Spain by an Israeli company.

Which means she honestly did not comprehend the difference between watching a WW2 movie and joining the Nazi party.

The last political celebrity to put his foot in his mouth over “The Merchant” was everybody’s favorite VP, Joe Biden. Speaking at a conference celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Legal Services Corporation, Biden shared stories he’d heard from his son (now departed), Beau, about his military experience in Iraq as Major in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps.

“That’s one of the things that he finds was most in need when he was over there in Iraq for a year,” Biden said, “that people would come to him and talk about what was happening to them at home in terms of foreclosures, in terms of bad loans that were being…I mean these Shylocks who took advantage of, um, these women and men while overseas.”

It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

JNi.Media

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/argentine-prez-cristina-kirchner-doesnt-get-why-her-shylock-comment-angers-jews/2015/07/09/

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