A Government With Fewer Ministers Could Save Israel NIS 100 Million a Year

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to eliminate some ministries and merge others.

The government would save about NIS 100 million annually by reducing the number of ministers and deputy ministers and closing some departments in the Prime Minister's Office, TheMarker has learned. That's NIS 400 million saved during one, full term of the Knesset. Moreover, merging the small and medium-sized government ministries into the larger, more established ones would reduce the number of ministry director generals, deputy director generals and department heads, resulting in additional savings of tens of millions of shekels or more.

At the start of the last Knesset, the government had 31 ministers (including Netanyahu) and nine deputy ministers.  Today, the government is comprised of 29 ministers and seven deputy ministers.  Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu currently have 20 ministers (after the resignation of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and including the appointment of Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter), Shas has four ministers, Ehud Barak's Atzmaut party has three and Habayit Hayehudi has one.

According to figures examined by TheMarker, the budget for a single minister without portfolio is close to NIS 2.5 million per year for office administration and another NIS 3 million per year for the minister's security arrangements. Deputy ministers also receive NIS 2.2 million each for office administration expenses. Altogether, the state spends NIS 76 million per year financing the activities and paying for offices of its eight ministers without portfolio and ad hoc ministers working out of the PMO and another NIS 24 million per year providing them with security.

These figures don't include the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee, which is under the jurisdiction of the PMO and has an annual budget of NIS 168 million and another NIS 3 million to provide security for its minister. 

During the last Knesset, the activities of the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee were merged with those of the Regional Development Ministry under the aegis of Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom (Likud).

Within the PMO there are three deputy ministers: Gila Gamliel (Likud), deputy minister for advancement of young people, students and women; Ayoob Kara (Likud), deputy minister for the development of the Negev and Galilee; and outgoing Knesset Member Lea Nass (Likud), who served as deputy minister for pensioner affairs.

Lapid wants a smaller government

Over the weekend, Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid reiterated his demand that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reduce the number of government ministers and wrote on Facebook that he had not agreed to a coalition with 24 ministers, as reported in the media. 

Some Knesset observers believe Netanyahu will find it difficult to assemble a coalition with fewer than 22 to 25 ministers because he will need to appoint members of his own Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu list and other parties joining the coalition. Netanyahu will helped by the fact that some of the last government's ministers without portfolio and deputy ministers were not re-elected.  

There is speculation that the Ministry of Public Diplomacy & Diaspora Affairs will be folded into the PMO; the Science and Technology Ministrywill be merged into the Education Ministry;  and the Religious Services Ministry will be absorbed by the PMO.  It appears that even the Culture and Sports Ministry will be integrated back into the Education Ministry. Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan has also asked to merge his ministry with the Energy and Water Resources Ministry.

Likewise, Knesset observers believe that the position of minister without portfolio, currently held by MK Meshulam Nahari (Shas) will be eliminated, as will the position of deputy Minister of Negev and Galilee Affairs currently held by MK Ayoob Kara (Likud). It also isn't clear whether MK Gila Gamliel will be reappointed deputy minister of advancement of young people, students and women in the PMO.

If United Torah Judaism isn't part of the next government coalition, the position currently held by Deputy Education Minister Menachem Moses (UTJ) will likely be axed as well. Also on the chopping board: the position of Deputy Minister for Pensioner Affairs, currently held by Lea Nass who is on her way out of the Knesset.  

Daniel Bar-On