The Bottom Line / Interest-linked interest?
Interest rate. David Klein decided not to raise the interest rate for October, although he could easily have reached a different conclusion. Look, the money supply has grown by 20 percent in the past 12 months, the interest gap between the shekel and dollar is very small. The differential between Israeli and U.S. central banks' interest rates is only 2.35 percent, one of the lowest in history. And the budget deficit, which should be only 3 percent of GDP in 2005, looks likely to reach 3.4 percent because of the cost of disengagement. And if all that isn't enough, then the government doesn't look all that solid. Sharon's men are talking of bringing elections forward because they can't see the present administration holding on after a vote on the disengagement - and early elections is clearly an economic blow.
So why has Klein decided to leave the interest rate as is? He even provided his pretty reasons for doing so, which just goes to prove that monetary theory can be quite flexible. Some say that Klein is trying to keep on Netanyahu's good side, and not to annoy Sharon as they decide who is to get the governor's seat for the next five years. That is just scandalous. There is no such proof of this.
Experts. Experts haven't had such a good season for many a year. First it was the banks bringing in both local and foreign experts (an American consultancy) to battle Netanyahu who wants to pry the mutual and provident funds from their sticky paws. And if there was an expert that fell by the wayside, the cell phone companies quickly gave them jobs (including a British consultancy) drafting a 1,000 page document detailing all the "mistakes," "misunderstandings" and "scheming" of those who wish to sharply reduce the phone operators' interconnection charges.
Will Netanyahu cave in to the banks' experts? Will Olmert bow down to the cellular experts? Or will they prefer experts of their own, the government officials who, for whatever reasons, seem to us a little more objective?
Cheats. Some 23 percent of recipients of state housing support are cheats, according to a sample survey in recent months by the Finance and Housing Ministries. There are also impostors claiming income support and unemployment payments, taking advantage of the government's disorganization. They claim state support, but are working in the moonlight, according to checks by the National Insurance Institute.
At a time when state budgets are being curtailed, it is absurd that subsidies and support are being wasted in this way. In effect, these cheats are receiving money at the expense of the true poor and weak, who deserve greater help from the state - but the coffers are empty.
Netanyahu is currently drafting a plan to set up a new unit in the treasury to investigate everyone who receives income support (150,000 people) or unemployment benefits (100,000). Once the investigation drives out the impostors, then the money saved could be spent on improving the lot of the truly weaker members of society. That would be true social justice.