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The land cartel

Despite the attorney general's opposition, this week the Israel Lands Administration council decided to allow most of the real estate deals that began prior to August 2002 to proceed along with their bloated compensation conditions, the very issue that led to a High Court ruling in August to cancel the exaggerated levels of compensation.

The issue began back in 1992 when the ILA council decided that when agricultural land was rezoned for commercial purposes, the farmers would receive half the value of the rezoned land. This remarkable compensation, inspired by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, caused a public outcry that led to its gradual reduction, so that agricultural land would be granted to farmers (almost for free) for agricultural use only, and not for lucrative property deals at the expense of the Israeli public.

Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein (for once representing the public interest as he should) is against the phenomenal compensation rates. But the ILA is controlled, and has been since its inception, by the Farmers Lobby, a body that causes the greatest economic damage by halting development and freezing any new plans for real estate.

The ILA is responsible for creating a shortage of land, sky-high prices, scandalous fees to be borne by the public, and it has played no small part in the crisis in the construction industry, pulverizing all of us in the grinding wheels of its monstrous and outdated workings.

So the only solution is to do away with the ILA, stop the bolshevik leasing system and sell land freely to the public - just like in a normal country. Now is Industry and Trade Minister Ehud Olmert going to take up the challenge?

The shipping cartel

On June 3, the Shipping Companies Association (in which Zim plays a pivotal role) announced that from June 18 it will slap a new terminal handling charge (THC) on the Israel-northwest Europe run, of $29-$45 per container.

The Shipping Carriers and Users Association is against the fee. Although there is competition in shipping cargo, nevertheless the companies have managed to find ways to "compensate" themselves - charges. Some 15 years ago, the Users Association checked the situation and found a total of 54 additional charges and various and varied levies, which in some cases constituted 50 percent of the total cost of transporting freight by sea.

The antitrust body not long ago forbade a similar charge, saying that it was "not legal," but the shipping companies interpreted the ruling as permission to impose the charge after removing certain components from it. So the problem must be cleaned up clearly and decisively - to remove the shipping companies' right to operate as a cartel, and to do away with the system of fees, an outdated system dating back to the 18th century.

There must be only one uniform price for shipping cargo, without extras, and there should be free competition throughout, and then we would all benefit from lower prices on the seas and the entire export economy would profit.