Beep Me, Ruhama

When Avraham Poraz was Interior Minister, from time to time reporters would get a press release. Not every day. When Ophir Pines-Paz took over, the frequency increased. But when deputy minister Ruhama Avraham took charge, we had to replace our faxes and upgrade our beepers, because the amount of messages she churned out broke all records. She evidently knows that just getting things done, without the appearance of getting things done, means nothing was done. And, if there's a story in the press about it, even though nothing was done, then it's as good as done!

Ruhama Avraham began her political career as the manager of Netanyahu's office. She was his protégé. But loyalty is not a strong side of politics, and when the crunch came, she jumped to the Sharon bloc. That won her the job of deputy Interior Minister well before she had completed even one term in Knesset; she even made it into the second decile in Kadima, assuring her of a Knesset position without any primaries of other such nonsense.

Avraham is not only a deputy minister: since Ehud Olmert is the minister, and he's busy, she brazenly moved into the minister's office, from where she releases announcements about her contribution to the nation.

The answer to poverty

This week the local authorities held a big conference on securitization, as a means to tap the public for money for projects. All the people speaking at the conference, including Avraham, applauded the idea. How do I know? I got a fax about it from the deputy minister. "This is a policy that will help rehabilitate the local authorities, that will benefit the residents and reduce unemployment," she wrote.

Thank goodness: finally we have a formula to solve the problem of dreadful management, nepotism, and pork-barrel politics in local government.

 But most of the local authorities, 240 out of 260, are not self-sufficient.  They cannot issue bonds, because they rely on taxpayer subsidies. As for the 20 that don't need favors from the central government, remember that they aren't a business and that the mayors may abuse the raised funds to carry out grandiose projects "for the benefit of the people" (his reelection), leaving behind a mountain of debt for future generations to worry about.

In the case of specific projects, such as building a parking lot for instance that generates income that can be attached, then securitization makes sense, in the stead of bank loans. And since this is relevant only to the 20 strong municipalities out of 260, we cannot expect the revolution to rehabilitate the cities and reduce unemployment, as Avraham says: all securitization will do is compete with the banks, diversify risks, and reduce financing costs.

One day in Tel Aviv

If the deputy minister really does want to benefit the little man, she should take a look at the new Interior Ministry offices in Tel Aviv, on the corner of Kaplan and Begin streets.

Last Wednesday, a Tel Aviv citizen tried to renew his passport. He went there, took a number, and saw there were 100 people ahead of him in line. He gave up and came back the next day, Thursday morning. This time were only 50 people ahead of him in line. But the line was not moving. The crowd grew angry, mainly because there were no less than 15 pretty spanking-new desks of which only three were manned and twelve were standing there gleaming, and bereft.

The fuming citizen complained to the deputy manager, Rachel Zevulun, who said five girls were working, not three. But why five, if there are 15 positions and the line is stretching out the door? And where were the two that disappeared? Why does the public have to waste half a day's work to renew a passport or ID card?

So the citizen stamped off to the manager, Amos Arbel, who said without missing a beat: "Now there are eight girls working." But there are only three, the citizen protested. "Not true," quoth the manager from the lofty eyrie of his position.

After a few minutes he ventured from his office to check. The citizen said, Look, there are only three. And Arbel said, there are five. Wait a moment, the citizen said, you said there were eight and who were the 15 stations built for?

Deputy Minister Ruhama Avraham, opportunity beckons. Make the Interior Ministry in Tel Aviv work more efficiently and then you will have genuine reason to inundate reporters with your press announcements.