On Sunday, Ehud Olmert will submit his proposal to appoint Aharon Domb as head of his ministry's Investment Center. Domb would be in charge of a NIS 432 million budget. As part of his job, he will have to set new rules, rank all outstanding requests for state subsidies according to their net present values, examine the commercial risk of each investment according to various economic models, check each project's contribution to employment and its competitiveness in foreign markets, as well as look at other economic variables. Clearly the right person for the job needs at the very least an economics degree.
We checked out Domb's educational background, and apparently it ended at the Pirhei Aharon high school. No further education, economic or otherwise.
No one in the private sector would be appointed to such a post at a clearly economic institution without a suitable economic background. But with our political reality, anything goes. And if Olmert wants to stay close to the settlements, bringing them investments and expansion, then there is no one better than Domb, a veteran active resident of Kiryat Arba. That's what Domb did at his previous job as director-general of the Tourism Ministry under Benny Elon (and by the way, did he not need an academic background for that?) and now he will do this at the Investment Center.
Movable numbers. The cellular phone operators are very stressed out at the moment. They are worried over Olmert's plans to slash their interconnection charges, which would impact heavily on their large profits. So they have threatened to raise their call charges, which they can do, because the sector is not completely competitive. The three operators - Cellcom, Partner (Orange) and Pelephone - operate limited competition among themselves, like an oligopoly, just like the major banks.
Now they fear a new proposal by the Communications and Finance Ministries in the 2005 budget document: "Movable numbers," in other words, allowing a subscriber to transfer from one operator to another and keep his own cell phone number, including prefix.
If this should happen, it would be the greatest freedom to the customer, his power in face of the cell phone companies would soar, and supply would also jump as big and small operators alike would be free to join the sector. In many European countries and the United States, where such number transferability exists, it has proven one of the best forces in protecting the consumer.
The timing of such a move is critical, because movable numbers would prevent the cell phone companies from raising the cost of a call when Olmert brings down their interconnection charges. Competition over customers will be all the greater, because everyone will be able to switch firms more easily, without obstacles.
But to promote such a policy, there's a need for cooperation among three people: Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, who would have to give his approval of legislation on the matter, and Olmert and Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who should put their differences aside and work together for the good of the consumer.
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