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Don't be surprised if any minute now Ariel Sharon's associates leak to the press that not only did the prime minister not offer former central bank governor Jacob Frenkel anything - but Frenkel started the whole story by coming looking for work. After all, Sharon's spinmeisters know no limits.

How easy it is to feed the press stories that the two meetings - four hours during the most critical hours of coalition negotiations - were just to schmooze about the economic situation.

The bluff has another aim - damage control for Finance Minister Silvan Shalom, behind whose back the entire deal was raised. There are those at the PMO who fear the vengeance of Shalom, so they need to say there was no job offer.

What of Frenkel's dignity? Who cares? That man doesn't have even a finger in the Likud central committee.

So the public should know this - in the two meetings between Sharon and Frenkel, Sharon begged and pleaded and wheedled repeatedly with Frenkel to take the treasury. Sharon very much wants to switch horses and also believed that if he brought in an outsider, not a politician, who was highly regarded at home and abroad, he would be applauded and Shalom would swallow the bitter pill. But if he brings in former Jerusalem mayor Ehud Olmert - that would be an eviction.

Facing Sharon's pleas, Frenkel made two conditions. The first was a political process to end the Palestinian uprising, the only way to bring back tourists and foreign investors and return the economy to growth. This after all is the point.

The second condition was a government that would reduce welfare payments and redirect funds to infrastructure and reforms that enhance competition. That would require Labor in and the ultra-Orthodox out.

This approach - redirecting budget funds and consistently reducing the deficit by cost-cutting reforms - is the correct response to the economic situation.

It is also the exact opposite of the thesis recently put forward by Economic Models CEO Yaakov Sheinin and Teva Pharmaceuticals chairman Eli Hurvitz. We already learned in 2002 what happens when we increase the budget deficit, even if we camouflage it with a Latin name. Not only do we not get growth - we get contraction.

When Frenkel realized Labor was out, virtually squashing in his opinion any chance for a political process or substantial change in the budget, he told Sharon he wouldn't take the job. Then began the deception drive.

But even if Sharon had brought Labor on board, he wouldn't have conducted real negotiations. He wouldn't have given up "strategic" Netzarim, regardless of written agreements. Structural reform? Heaven forfend.

So Frenkel - and any other finance minister - is doomed to fail in restoring economic growth. That would have turned Frenkel's internationally recognized success story in curbing inflation into a sad story of failure.

Frenkel owes Labor chairman Amram Mitzna a debt of thanks, even if he did have to endure a serious slice of contempt and derision. That was chump change compared to what he would have had to put up with as Sharon's finance minister.