Cabinet session on Trajtenberg committee, Netanyahu
Cabinet session on the Trajtenberg committee, Dec. 18, 2011. Photo by Alex Kolomisky
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed determination on Sunday when he voted in the cabinet meeting for most of the recommendations on increasing competitiveness in the economy suggested by the Trajtenberg Committee.

The recommendations approved by the cabinet are truly historic. They include establishing metropolitan authorities to manage cities' public transportation, increasing competition in public transportation, taking the gas stations away from big energy companies and giving broader powers to the Antitrust Authority to break up companies that wield too much economic power. These structural recommendations are of unparalleled importance and will increase competition in Israel.

But we must not ignore other Trajtenberg recommendations that were not approved. The section on economic competition also discusses increasing imports: limiting the powers of the Standards Institute, which currently blocks such imports, and restricting the authority of the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry to levy tariffs.

These two recommendations were not discussed at all. If we add the compromise that has delayed the reduction in import duties, then the most important step for competition - exposing the economy to imports - has not made progress.

The important structural steps the cabinet approved will extensively change the economy only in the distant future. In contrast, opening the economy to imports would increase competition and bring down prices immediately. It's disappointing that the measure that could have responded quickly to the cost-of-living protesters did not come to pass.

The disappointment could increase in light of the Trajtenberg report's main section, which has yet to come up for discussion in the cabinet: early childhood education. That's the report's crowning glory, a response to the social protesters' demand to ease the burden on the middle class and improve the state's services to its citizens. This issue is in doubt unless the prime minister decides to cut the defense budget.

Cutting defense spending is indeed a big decision, but due to the urgent social and civilian needs, the prime minister must show true grit and make that decision.

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