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The Finance Ministry will finalize its proposal for cuts in the 2003 budget within two weeks, with the goal of receiving approval for its plan by the current cabinet before the new government takes office.

Treasury director-general Ohad Marani explained yesterday that in light of the economic crisis, it was important for the cuts to be implemented quickly, and since the new government may take several weeks to form, this means they must be approved by the outgoing government.

The final decision on whether to bring the planned cuts to the current cabinet or wait for the new government, however, will be made by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Finance Minister Silvan Shalom, to whom the treasury will submit its proposal.

The treasury proposal will cut between NIS 7 billion and NIS 9 billion from the 2003 budget. Its main component is a 10-percent reduction in the public-sector work force - which would mean firing some 60,000 employees - and a 10-percent salary cut for all remaining public-sector workers.

The job cuts would not involve talks with the Histadrut labor federation.