Lawmaker blasts budget plan for 2008
Several clauses in the government's economic policy document for 2008 are generating harsh criticism in the Knesset. Some MKs strongly oppose clauses calling for slashes to disability allowances and privatization of police units. MK Shelly Yachimovich yesterday voiced her concerns regarding the process through which the document is approved by the cabinet.
Some of the concerns stem from the fact that several ministries have yet to receive the government's full annual economic policy document, and are therefore unable to fully review the government's fiscal plans. The ministries complain that they have so far received only the sections pertaining to each of them individually, which in effect turns the decision-making process into a secret procedure.
The full document includes some 100 clauses from various areas of life, which the cabinet usually approves in one session without much debate on its contents. The document forms the basis for the Economic Arrangements Bill - the supplementary legislation to the budget.
This, in turn, fuels the annual haggling between the cabinet and the Knesset over the budget, which determines those clauses that will be included in the budget and those that will be dropped.
"The crucial decisions involved in passing the economic policy document must not be conducted through such a hasty, superficial procedure and in an atmosphere of arm-twisting," Yachimovich yesterday wrote to Ehud Barak. "These decisions affect the basic elements of the lives of the people of Israel: They include matters such as health, education and labor."
Yachimovich claimed that the economic policy document stipulates radical changes in legislation, as well as "the annulment of laws that have been compiled through years of efforts, laws which the Knesset passed with an overwhelming majority."
She also complained that the document contains biased changes in work relations and would compromise workers rights, infringe on the jurisdiction of labor courts and in effect constitute abuse of the less affluent. She went on to list the document's proposed changes to the current method of taxation, pension arrangements and many other components of Israel's social policy, among other areas.
Among other things, the economic policy document calls for the privatization of the Postal Bank and the police's emergency call center, which employs no less than 300 police officers. The treasury says that privatizing the call center would improve efficiency and allow more officers to be deployed for fighting crime.
Furthermore, the economic policy document outlines amendments to the law affording allowances to polio patients. If the document is approved, it could mean a severe reduction to fees secured in a law the Knesset has recently approved.
The document stipulates that people who suffered injuries in car accidents would become the responsibility of the health maintenance organizations, instead of the insurance companies, which currently are obliged to attend to car-wreck victims.