Haifa mayor Einat Kalisch-Rotem has sharply criticized the Ministry of Finance over its position that the huge urban renewal plan for Haifa Bay, the "Bay of Innovation" plan, should not at this stage go ahead.
At a conference yesterday on local government in the coronavirus pandemic, Kalisch-Rotem commented on the letter from acting Budgets Commissioner at the Ministry of Finance Yogen Gardos to the ministerial directors general committee on the development of Haifa Bay, in which Gardos criticized the "Bay of Innovation" plan for evacuating petrochemicals plants from Haifa Bay, cleaning up the vacated land, and constructing 100,000 housing units plus commercial and industrial space. Gardos called into question the financial assumptions on which the plan was based, and said that these should be re-examined by the committee.
Following Gardos's letter, newly appointed Israel Land Authority director Yaakov Kvint decided to freeze work on the plan.
"It turns out the Ministry of Finance officials have decided the fate of Haifa Bay," Kalisch-Rotem said. "Unfortunately, the politicians threw this on a committee of ministry directors general. When we sat with all the directors general of the government ministries, all the heads of the local authorities in the Haifa area, the only ones who failed to turn up were the people from the Ministry of Finance. And so I would say that from Jerusalem they don't see Haifa. That's how it has always been.
"Today, I'm not very optimistic," Kalisch-Rotem continued. "Most of the heavy national infrastructures are in Haifa. We have two crazy ports here, petrochemicals, condensates from the gas platform, and all kinds of hazards here that are killing the lives of our residents, and so Haifa is trampled on by central government and will continue to be trampled on for many more years."
In January 2020, the Israel Land Authority and the National Economic Council presented the "Bay of Innovation" plan to the Haifa District Planning Commission. The plan calls for the removal of all the polluting plants from Haifa Bay, including Bazan (Oil Refineries).
The estimated cost of the plan is NIS 13.5 billion, most of which is meant to be covered by the sale of the vacated land for residential construction. The main challenge in implementing the plan will be cleaning up the polluted land, estimated at NIS 1.75 billion by the plan's authors.
On October 25, 2020, the government decided to set up a committee of the directors general of the relevant ministries to examine the plan and to report its conclusions within 90 days.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on January 13, 2021
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