With Amir Helmer

The government is considering backing the banking establishment in order to ease credit for infrastructure projects, Finance Minister Silvan Shalom said today.

"The government and the banks are discussing establishing a new model to enable the implementation of infrastructure projects.

"Most of the banks can no longer supply the same amounts of credit they used to. The intent is for the government to become involved in guaranteeing deposits and collateral, which would enable projects to be carried out," Shalom said at a lecture to the Bar Association.

He hopes the new model will come into force within a couple of weeks, Shalom added.

On other matters, Shalom said that on Monday, the Knesset will continue the legislative process of limiting private bills. He hopes that on Monday too, the panel headed by treasury director-general Ohad Marani will wind up discussions on privatizing Bank Leumi, in which the state holds a 55% interest.

Shalom himself supports privatizing government companies via the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, he said.

To facilitate privatization, Shalom added, there are talks to transfer control over the Government Companies Authority back to the treasury, instead of keeping it under the direct authority of the prime minister's office. However, appointments of directors to government companies would remain under the auspices of the prime minister's office, the finance minister said. No final decisions on this matter have been reached, he stressed.

Regarding the problem of foreign labor in Israel, Shalom said the government is considering the establishment of a special designated authority, which would require coordination between the Interior Minister, the Finance Ministry, the Labor Ministry and the Internal Security Ministry.