Starting today, some 70,000 large families will see a cut in their child allowances. This gradual process, which began a year ago and is scheduled to continue until 2009, involves granting an identical NIS 120 allowance for each child regardless of the number of children in a family. This is the most significant achievement of Shinui's presence in the government.

Since child allowances began in 1975, the ultra-Orthodox managed to see it increase from the fourth child onward. In 2000, MK Shmuel Halpert (United Torah Judaism) led a process to increase the allowance starting from the fifth child.

Secular families have two or three children, so they do not benefit from the increase, but the Likud supported Shas' demands to forge a pact to bring down Barak's government. As a result, in November 2000, the Knesset passed the "Halpert law" which increased child allowances to NIS 855 from the fifth child and on, while the first child received only NIS 171. Halpert was clearly deaf to any reasoning that he may be pulling too hard on the rope, that the allowances to the ultra-Orthodox and the Arabs were becoming too bloated. But the moment the ultra-Orthodox moved into the opposition, Shinui seized the opportunity and brought in allowance parity. Halpert became Balaam in reverse; intending to bless, he came out cursing.

Equating child allowances is the right policy for society, because expenses for the first child are far greater than those born thereafter. Also, it is unreasonable to encourage childbearing among the ultra-Orthodox, Arabs and Bedouin, which are among the weaker and poorer members of society. Large families in these circles make them poorer, and the parents do not work but rather depend on the welfare state, while the children do not get the education and knowledge that will enable them to escape the vicious circle of poverty.

Yoram Oberkovitz. On July 15, the board of directors of the Israel Electric Corporation decided to annul an earlier decision to rename the Gezer power plant after the late Yoram Oberkovitz. This is the result of a tenacious battle waged by Yair Bartel who petitioned the High Court claiming it was inappropriate to reward such a controversial character with the naming of a large power plant.

On June 8, I wrote in this column that the IEC used to name its power plants for Israeli greats; founder of the company Rotenberg in Ashkelon, prime minister Eshkol in Ashdod, prime minister Rabin in Hadera. Oberkovitz is not in the same league. In 1997, he was convicted of falsifying documents; in 2000 he was charged on bribery charges; in 2003 former attorney general Elyakim Rubinstein recommended that he be dismissed from his post as chairman of the IEC workers committee; and recently his name has cropped up with a new scandal - employing a private investigator to spy on a minister of the state, Yosef Paritzky.

The IEC board's about-face teaches the citizens of Israel not to give up. Public decency is attainable, even if only one madman seems to care, in this case one Yair Bartel.