Gov't Group to Study Quake-readiness

The Finance Ministry is establishing an interministerial working group to examine Israel's financial preparedness for an earthquake. The group, headed by the ministry's accountant general, Yehoshua (Shuki ) Oren, will also discuss the question of insurance in case of a serious earthquake.

A ministerial committee was established on the issue as well, and the new group is supposed to prepare the staff work needed for the committee, in addition to relevant work already compiled by the National Economic Council in the Prime Minister's Office.

The new team will put together recommendations for improving financial preparedness for earthquakes, such as how to pay for reconstruction after a serious quake. The group will report every three months to Deputy Finance Minister Yitzhak Cohen, and is scheduled to present its final recommendations no later than November 1, 2011.

The team is also tasked with establishing a database containing all assets belonging to the state, government companies, local authorities and other official bodies. It will examine the requirements for rebuilding and rehabilitating possible damage, estimate potential costs and losses - as well as the insurance available, and look at how to improve the situation.

"Financial preparedness for extreme situations in a modern economy, and in particular a small economy, is critical," said Oren. "As we have seen in Japan and New Zealand, the financial aspect is a significant part of dealing with the catastrophe."

The group will include representatives of the treasury, the Bank of Israel, the Interior Ministry, the Government Companies Authority, the National Infrastructure Ministry, the Justice Ministry, the National Economic Council, the Defense Ministry and the National Emergency Authority.