Israel to Issue Int'l Tender to Formulate 15-year Plan for Economic, Social Policy

Although models are available to address long-term economic planning, Israel has a lot to learn on the topic.

The Israeli government will be issuing an international public tender in the coming weeks commissioning a blueprint for Israel's economic and social policy for the next 15 years, Israeli officials said yesterday. They were speaking in a panel discussion at TheMarker's Israel 2021 Conference in Jerusalem.

Eugene Kandel and Haim Shani
Ofer Vaknin

The intention of tapping the world for ideas that will shape Israel's future was revealed yesrerday by Eugene Kandel, head of the National Economic Council in the Prime Minister's Office, and by Finance Ministry Director General Haim Shani.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz had mandated them to build and launch the international tender, which is supposed to overcome government obstacles and get beyond the short-term thinking of politicians and the public, the pair told the audience.

Initiative was motivated by a sense that "something was lacking," Shani said.

Crucial to the process is not only deciding what should be done, but how it should be accomplished, said Shani, who came to public service after two decades in the high-tech industry - most recently as CEO of NICE Systems.

Shani said some of what occurs in Israel economically and socially results from planning, but other developments are the product of happenstance. He said models were available to address long-term planning and Israel had a lot to learn on the topic.

"If you don't survey the world, your decisions won't have any significance in another five years," he said.

Kandel said public discourse in Israel focuses on the present, perhaps because of the history of the Jewish people. "Maybe it's that history that got us accustomed to improvising to survive," he said.

Our grandparents told us: Eat your soup first

Our grandparents told us to eat our soup first because we could take the meat with us when we fled the pogroms, Kandel said. That is thinking ahead.

The challenge is not to lose the ability to innovate in the face of long-term thinking, Kandel urged. He said there were people in government who thought about the long term, but the government as a whole lacked this approach.

The two men said the company that wins the tender for the 15-year national plan will have to develop a vision that has the public's support. They said a foreign firm would be committed to its task without being influenced by Israeli domestic pressures. It would also commit to stick to a deadline.

Kandel noted that in Israel, non-governmental institutions have published useful studies in the run-up to the tender. He said the public should be involved in the process, but this must be coordinated by the government.

"We did our homework and started meeting with organizations and people with the aim of seeing what they were doing in other countries such as France, Ireland, Latvia, Georgia and Singapore. Jacques Attali [an adviser to French President Nicolas Sarkozy] told us about the strategy through which France returned to greatness," Shani said.

"We sent a team to [the republic of] Georgia a few weeks ago and discovered that a jump in the measure of business activity was carried out there in a five-year period. Countries carry out various approaches. There isn't a single recipe and there's a lot to learn .... The public discourse in a democratic country influences the government, and here [in Israel], the public discourse centers around instant solutions."