Israeli Government Seeks Efficiency Plan for Surplus of Ministries

According to the Finance Ministry plan, the headquarters of smaller ministries will be unified to cut costs

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz, Jerusalem, May 17, 2020
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz, Jerusalem, May 17, 2020Credit: Alex Kolomoisky

The excessive cost of Israel’s outsized, 34-minister government has driven the Finance Ministry to search for ways to cut the cost of running so many new ministries.

Given the financial crisis facing Israel’s government, it’s hard to come to grips with the idea that each new ministry will have 14.5 full-time jobs at a cost of 6.5 million shekels, including five senior administrators, four advisers, one senior advisor, an office manager, and a director general who costs the office 3.2 million shekels.

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Thus, the Finance Ministry and the Civil Service Administration have been reviewing efficiency plans for the ministries.The plans would target the smallest ministries, including existing ones like the Ministry for Social Equality, the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee and the Ministry for Jerusalem Affairs, as well as new ones such as the Ministry for Higher Education and the Water Economy or the Ministry for Community Development.

The initial plan had called to limit the ministers’ bureaus and make intra-government work more efficient. Thus, every ministry would be budgeted a number of positions in keeping with its size and importance. The Defense Ministry, for instance, would receive more senior advisers and administrators than the Ministry for Regional Cooperation, for instance. This plan would have saved 40 million shekels a year, or 160 million shekels over the government’s term.

However, officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Likud party indicated to the Finance Ministry that they weren’t prepared to advance such a plan, and it was shelved. This stemmed from fears that the plan would show disrespect to some ministers and they wouldn’t be able to hand out jobs to cronies, and superseded financial concerns.

Instead, the Finance Ministry is now advancing a plan to unify headquarters for the smaller ministries. Under the plan, the ministries would rely on a joint headquarters within the Prime Minister’s Office, which would provide services such as budgeting, manpower, public relations, acquisitions, secretarial duties, logistics and operations. Each ministry would also get a more limited office of its own, and would only have workers focused on the ministry’s main role.

The Finance Ministry forecasts that such a plan could cut back on 30 jobs, or 7.5 million shekels a year, cutting manpower costs by 33% for the smaller ministries.

But this plan is also being delayed by demands from workers within the Prime Minister’s Office to receive raises for taking on new responsibilities.

The Finance Ministry hopes to have the plan in place quickly in order to set facts on the ground before the ministries start hiring. However, given that the new state budget hasn’t been passed yet, the new ministries haven’t yet received any budgets and thus cannot hire anyone.

The Civil Service Administration said it had nothing new to add on the issue, while the Finance Ministry did not respond.

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