The Bottom Line / It's about leadership
The budget. The budget discussions over the years have taken place in the "three-stage system." At the first cabinet meeting, the treasury professionals soften up the ministers, explaining that things will be much better.
The budget. The budget discussions over the years have taken place in the "three-stage system." At the first cabinet meeting, the treasury professionals soften up the ministers, explaining that next year the economy would grow, unemployment would shrink, and things will be much better.
At the next session, the treasury would lead the ministers to a decision on the size of the budget and the deficit, and the overall cut needed in the budget compared to the previous year's.
And at the third session, the finance minister would detail his proposals for the cuts in each ministry. Each minister would then go to war over their budget, but by then there was not much that could be changed because any addition would require a parallel cut, since the overall amount to be cut had already been determined at the previous meeting.
A month ago, the government held its first of the three meetings. But it hasn't held the second one, the important one, yet and it won't hold it because it is no longer necessary. A year ago, the government decided on a multi-year process of reducing government expenditure. A law was passed saying the deficit in 2005 would be 3 percent of the GDP and the growth in government spending would be only 1 percent. As a result, the cut was automatically determined to be NIS 6 billion. Therefore, the second meeting, due on Sunday, will only deal with structural changes in the economy.
At the third meeting, due in two weeks, it will be decided which ministries will be cut. The ministers will try to rebel. That's where Netanyahu's leadership will be tested. Will he surrender to the ministers?
The local authorities. Out of 155 local authorities that need restructuring programs there are 44 that have had their programs approved by the Interior Ministry, but the mayors refuse to implement them. As a result, those local authorities are not getting the millions of shekels waiting for them in the Interior Ministry and the workers in those towns are not being paid.
These are mayors who want the honey, but not the sting. They want the grants and loans from the ministry, but don't want the appointment of an accountant from the ministry who will examine and sign off on every expenditure.
Juljulya Mayor Faik Uda, wrote to Interior Minister Avraham Poraz, that he opposes the appointment of the ministry accountant. As a result he is not getting the money for the restructuring plan, which is a NIS 2.5 million grant and a NIS 1.3 million loan - not exactly chicken feed.
Uda apparently prefers the old method: to continue not paying wages to his workers, and then they will demonstrate, the TV cameras will come, and there will be political pressure that leads to the ministry giving in and handing over the money - even if there's no restructuring plan. And if the ministry goes from Poraz to Eli Yishai of Shas, that's exactly what will happen.