Ehud Olmert. Next week the trade and industry minister leads a megalomaniac delegation to China. Apart from the members of the delegation itself, there will also be 150 businessmen, as is fitting for a superpower.
Beijing has the pleasure of hosting the 2008 Olympics, and the city plans to spend $32 billion in preparations (around 70 percent of the State of Israel's annual budget). Olmert says the delegation's aim is to develop business contacts with the great nation, and to advance Israeli companies' participation in the massive projects that are expected as part of the Olympic Games. And to help out, Olmert invited along our man on the International Olympic Committee, Alex Giladi.
Giladi's participation reminds us that actually Tel Aviv is up there in Beijing's league, because four years ago, Giladi drove the Israeli populace crazy with this dazzling idea: That Tel Aviv host the 2012 Olympics. He managed to bring together some architectural students who built a nice model that showed how the games could be played at the Kfar Maccabiah sports complex and the Ramat Gan stadium. But as there are still no suitable facilities for football, and our sport places are pretty dismal, the whole enthusiasm was quite entertaining. Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai snatched the opportunity, actively joining in with this delusion.
In any case, we soon found out who we would be competing against for the title, such other small towns like Istanbul, Cairo and New York. But even they have to admit, they haven't got a Kfar Maccabiah.
Israel Defense Forces. The army has yet to recover from lengthening its career soldiers' service, and has switched new recruits' pension from noncontributory to contributory ones. But in order to sweeten the pill, the IDF committee decided to recommend promotions, bumping captains up to majors, and majors up to lieutenant colonels, because clearly the existing nine officer classes are not enough to run a professional army.
The head of the IDF personnel department explained, "There is a need to adapt the ranks to the ages of the new retirees," or in other words, there is an urgent need to raise salaries for our officers. That's how the strongest trade union in the country works.
And that isn't all the strong union does on the subject of pensions. It wants the money to be transferred to a fund managed by the IDF. This is not fitting, actuarially speaking, because a fund needs to be large and diversified in order to be stable. And it isn't the right thing managerially speaking either, because whoever wants an "in-house fund" also wants favors dished out in the future, for example subsidized loans or pay rises on retirement. The result will be that one day, the fund will notch up a deficit - just like the Histadrut's funds - and the army will ask the treasury for "budget improvements to wipe out deficits." Both the unnecessary rank promotions and the in-house pension funds should be shot while they're still in their infancy.
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