"Desalination in the state of Israel is over; the tenders have failed and the foreign investors, who came from the leading firms in the world, have fled; there will be no desalination in Israel under the Finance Ministry's current policy," Infrastructure Minister Yosef Paritzky declared this week.
How scary. "The leading firms in the world," as Paritzky called them, merely wanted to fulfill their function on earth and to save an entire country from thirst, while the wicked treasury officials stood in their way. But the truth is that "the leading firms in the world" consider Israel to be an integral part of the Third World, where a contract is not a contract, a word is not a word, and any commitment is merely some kind of recommendation that will be followed by never-ending negotiations with ministers and government officials who time after time make concessions to those who have the capital and the power.
The winners of the tender had offered to desalinate the water at a cost of 56 cents per liter and now that seems to them too low. So what? Did anyone force them? Now they would like to change the conditions of the tender so that they can be more favorable to them. And who rushes to assist them? Paritzky, who otherwise usually believes that "contracts must be kept."
On the other hand, treasury accountant general Yaron Zelekha has reached the correct conclusion - that the time has come to stop the worsening situation with regard to tenders. Negotiations after a contract is signed are not merely an affront to the principle of justice and equality but also one of the factors that leads to decreased investments in the Israeli economy because serious bodies will prefer not to put in for a tender in a country where everything is open and an agreement is not an agreement.
Some of those who won the desalination tender claim that the banks changed the funding package. So let them sue the banks. If the conditions for the funding had improved, would they go to the treasury and sign a check for the difference? That is why one should not be upset by the pressure they are mounting via Paritzky. Zelekha should simply cash in the NIS 35 million that they deposited.
One should likewise not be upset by the delay in the desalination plans. Every setback can have its positive side. From the start, the plan was a mistake on the part of the government that caved in under pressure from the agriculture lobby. Paritzky should understand the Introduction to Price Theory: Whenever the price is lower than the market value, there will always be shortage. When farmers in Israel pay a mere NIS 1.04 per cubic meter (much less than the marginal value of the water), a shortage is created.
If the price for the farmers were raised to cost price (NIS 1.60 per cubic meter), it would transpire that there is no shortage of water in Israel and that the only problem is that water is wasted in the agricultural sector. If the farmers were to pay what households or industries pay (some NIS 2 per cubic meter), this shortage would probably vanish.
But Paritzky not only wants to desalinate water at a price of NIS 3 per cubic meter, he also wants to import water from Turkey at the absurd price of NIS 4.50 per cubic meter. In addition, he has recently begun attacking treasury officials to put them in their proper place, below the important ministers. We're lucky that we have responsible treasury officials.
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