Is Yadin Antebi's Salary Fair?

Yadin Antebi is the watchdog with the longest title in the State of Israel - the "Commissioner of Capital Markets, Insurance and Savings in the Finance Ministry". And he has the smallest salary.

Antebi grosses NIS 31,000 a month, the same as the director general of the treasury.

According to the report produced by the Ben-Bassat Committee on supervision of financial markets, this salary covers Antebi's job of keeping track of 23,000 workers and the management of the public's financial assets worth NIS 424 billion.

Is Antebi's salary fair?

It depends on how you look at it. You can certainly claim that it is a very reasonable wage, and the fact is that Antebi is happy to have his job.

But you could also claim that his salary is almost laughably low, and the evidence is the long list of those who earn much, much more than he does.

The Supervisor of Banks at the Bank of Israel, Yoav Lehman, grosses NIS 51,000 a month, for example. And Lehman is responsible for supervising a sector with 40,000 workers and public assets of NIS 443-683 billion.

Lehman does his job with a staff of 152 employees, whose average salary is 70 percent higher than those of Antebi's 73 employees.

According to the Ben-Bassat Committee report, the highest salaries are paid by the Israel Securities Authority (ISA), whose 121 employees earn 83 percent more than Antebi's. The highest paid employee at the ISA is the chairman, Moshe Terry, who makes NIS 40,000 a month - still much less than Lehman. The amount of supervisory work required from Lehman is not significantly different to Antebi's, but he earns 65 percent more.

Why? For one, and only one reason. Poor Yadin Antebi works in a government ministry. In this case, the treasury. Lucky Lehman works for a public institution. In his case, the Bank of Israel.

It turns out that public institutions have their own rules about wages. Most have independent sources of revenues; their managements tend to view themselves as running businesses, and the revenues belong to them - even though they are subject to the supervision of the treasury's wages division. In reality, such supervision is often just a recommendation. Take a look, for example, at the salaries of port workers, or those of the Broadcasting Authority.

Just take a look at all the exceptions, the nepotism, cronyism and the political appointments at the Israel Airports Authority. And, of course, just look a the wage scandal at the Bank of Israel.

When the salary affair exploded at the central bank, Lehman's wage was exposed not as NIS 51,000 a month, but as NIS 76,000. This was a result of exceptional, one-time payments made to him in 2004. The bank's new management, lead by governor Stanley Fischer, committed itself to keep such excesses from returning - even though it refused to demand repayment of excessive sums already paid.

Nevertheless, the bank's management did not promise to lower salaries for its own senior officials. In fact, the opposite actually happened. New senior officials hired by Fischer are earning NIS 50,000 a month - including the individual who is supposed to be in charge of enforcing salary codes at the bank, new director general Yaakov Danon. The new supervisor of banks, who will be appointed at the end of this year, will probably also earn such a salary.

The Ben-Bassat Committee did not determine the appropriate salary levels for such positions, but it is clear that there is almost no chance of lowering wages for officials at the Bank of Israel - and certainly not as long as they think at the bank that NIS 50,000 a month is reasonable for public employees.