The temptation is great. To turn to a successful businessman and to offer him the job of finance minister. To ask him to dedicate a few years to Israel's economy, to make a personal sacrifice and to get us onto the path of dizzying success, just as he did in the private company he headed.
It sounds good, but it actually is a bad idea. Because if there is anyone destined for failure, it's a "successful businessman" in a temporary public position. Life and experience have taught us that when such a person becomes responsible for distributing public money, he undergoes a metamorphosis.
Suddenly that same tough director, who made cutbacks and carried out tough rehabilitation programs without batting an eyelash, becomes "socially oriented" at the expense of the public coffer. He constructs himself a "social agenda," speaks about increasing government spending and salaries for teachers, doctors and other civil servants, and preaches in favor of expanding the Encouragement of Capital Investment Law and in favor of increasing marketing grants, and all out of guilt over the cutbacks and dismissals he made all his life, and the huge salaries he took for himself.
Someone who understands microeconomics does not necessary understand macroeconomics. A successful private-sector executive does not necessarily understand politics. Anyone who does not have power in a party and the coalition, and does not know how to cook up deals in the Knesset Finance Committee, how to "pay" for votes and attain a majority, has no chance of succeeding.
That's why it would be a good idea to return to the political field, to candidates who are accountable to the public. One of them is Interior Minister Roni Bar-On, who has status and power as well as an impressive ability to express himself. Bar-On has proved himself in the Interior Ministry, and he believes in a free and competitive economy. He is also very loyal to Ehud Olmert.
Another candidate is Haim Ramon, who is talented, experienced and endowed with political courage. But Ramon also believes (like his friend Olmert) that he knows better than anyone else. He believes (mistakenly) that the power of the Budgets Department should be clipped and the budget increased.
Meir Sheetrit is the third candidate, a revolutionary by nature and a person of exceptional public courage. Sheetrit believes in the market economy, and does not hesitate to attack those who choose to live on public allowances. He has substantial experience, but is impatient and has a very short fuse.
If Olmert decides based on the candidates' loyalty, Sheetrit will be disqualified. But the choice should be made on an entirely different basis: economic worldview.
The global economy is heading toward increased competition and reduced public-sector budgets (see England, Germany and France), lower taxes, privatization and reforms, in order not to fall behind as the world economy grows. In light of this, a responsible prime minister must choose someone who agrees to be unpopular in the short term, but boosts Israel's economy over the long term. Someone who will be willing to increase the state budget by only 1.7 percent (as opposed to the 2.5-percent recommendation of the Brodet Commission) and will also agree to confront and carry out important reforms in the Civil Service, the Israel Lands Administration, the Electric Corporation, the defense firms, the Airports Authority and the ports.
The Brodet Commission constructed an unrealistic theoretical model that assumes the economy will be excellent in 2017 even if we greatly increase government expenditures. The commission has proved that even economists can lose sight of reality. They failed to take into account the fact that Israel is very far from economic normalcy, that this is not Europe. That too few of us go out to work. That we are still living in an unstable, abnormal environment, that at any moment a war could break out here, and that our politicians compete to see who can waste more.
The commission did not even understand that the economic growth and climbing employment rate are mainly a result of budget cutbacks in recent years.
Therefore, the first condition the prime minister must present to all candidates is: How fast will you toss the Brodet Commission's macroeconomic suggestions into the trash? The quickest one is the most appropriate candidate.
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