Trajtenberg committee - Tomer Appelbaum
The members of the Trajtenberg committee, with the chairman in the center. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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The Knesset Finance Committee refused to budget NIS 727,000 for the running of the Trajtenberg committee on socioeconomic issues.

The Finance Committee did agree that NIS 32,000 could be transfered from the budget of Improvement of Government Services Ministry headed by Michael Eitan, which was part of the Finance Ministry's budget request.

The Trajtenberg commission, officially called the Committee on Socioeconomic Change, is named after its chairman, the former head of the National Economic Council Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg. It is holding its sessions at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem. The budget is for renting the space, paying committee members who do not work for the state and other expenses.

"The Trajtenberg committee is superfluous. All the issues it is considering have already been raised in the Finance Committee's meetings in the past, and do not cost anything," said Finance Committee chairman, MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism ). "I am willing to provide the government with advice for free," he said.

Gafni said he will meet this week with Trajtenberg in private at Trajtenberg's request.

The head of the opposition faction on the Finance Committee, MK Ruhama Avraham Balila (Kadima ), proposed inviting Prof. Trajtenberg to present his postions to the Finance Committee before presenting his final recommendations to the public - and she asked the committee not to approve the budget request at this stage. Gafni and the rest of the committee members agreed and decided not to vote on the matter for now.

"Netanyahu chose to present the Trajtenberg committee on September 21, the after the the [scheduled] United Nations session on the declaration of a Palestinian state, in order to distract attention from what is happening in the diplomatic arena," said Avraham Balila.

"This is a budget for coffee and tea, and for hiring consultants," said MK Shai Hermesh (Kadima ).

NIS 86 million for financial R&D centers

For now, the Knesset Finance Committee will not vote on the Finance Ministry's request to increase the travel and security budget for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The treasury requested an additional NIS 5 million from the committee at its meeting yesterday.

Gafni postponed the vote on the additional budget for a week.

"There is a need to increase the prime minister's budget for flights. The flights are not budgeted at the beginning of the year and the [budget] item is updated during the year based on the number of flights," said treasury official Uri Geva.

Avraham Balila asked to find out how much has already been budgeted for Netanyahu's overseas travels. "There are beds and bedrooms on the prime minister's planes. It is true we need to improve Israel's standing in the international community, but we want to know how much it costs," said Avraham Balila.

Geva told the committee that he did not have the information, but the gap between the original budget and the actual outlays could reach NIS 15 million.

The committee did approve the transfer of NIS 86 million to the Chief Scientist's Office in the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry. The money is earmarked for establishing financial research and development centers, which are intended to induce large financial institutions to operate in Israel.

How does the state manage a socioeconomic policy in both the short term and the long term, wrote Trajtenberg on the committee's website yesterday. He said that was the most significant issue the commission had to deal with: How to create a situation where both present and future generations can live in economic security, and with the feeling the state is taking care of them.

Trajtenberg presented three main possibilities how to pay for a more just division of resources, including increasing welfare budgets and increasing the income for those who work: Taking from where the money is, taking from those who have money and taking from the future.

Taking money from other places within the present budgetary framework means changing priorities, he wrote. For example moving money to social ministries from others.

"Taking from those who have" means increasing taxes on higher earners and from capital gains. Taking money from the future means increasing the budget deficit in the belief that future tax revenues will be higher, placing the burden on future wage earners and future generations. Trajtenberg wrote that the state's ability to take out loans is not infinite, as the present crisis in Europe proves.