Night of Good Arrangements

In recent years, the Economic Arrangements Law - the supplementary legislation to the budget - has become a red rag in the face of cabinet ministers, Knesset members, lobbyists and interested parties.

In recent years, the Economic Arrangements Law - the supplementary legislation to the budget - has become a red rag in the face of cabinet ministers, Knesset members, lobbyists and interested parties.

They all want one thing: to get rid of this bad law. It was passed in 1985, and since then has appeared every year alongside the Budget Law. The two of them determine the economic and social policy for the coming year.

The first Economic Arrangements Law determined that the Bank of Israel could not print money at the Finance Ministry's demand. This helped curtail the hyperinflation that had led the economy to the brink of destruction.

At the beginning of the 1990s the Economic Arrangements Law made possible the opening of the economy to competition from Southeast Asian imports, which makes it possible to buy a shirt today for NIS 20 instead of NIS 60 and a television for NIS 800 instead of $800.

The Economic Arrangements Law spawned the communications revolution. Without it, we would still be paying outrageous prices to Pelephone for international calls.

The Economic Arrangements Law called for the reform of the electricity industry, and if today it is possible to buy a painkiller at gas stations Friday evenings without a doctor's prescription, this too is due to the Economic Arrangements Law. And this is just a partial list.

Contrary to the claims of interested parties, the Economic Arrangements Law does not get passed under cover of darkness. It is not the product of a dark conspiracy by "the treasury boys."

Before it comes to the Knesset, it is thoroughly filtered by the attorney general, who excises from it every proposal not connected to economic policy.

The law will be presented to the government next week, and this time, too, it will try to advance reforms to improve our quality of life.

It is known that this summer the Israel Electric Corporation almost reached a shortage situation. The Economic Arrangements Law proposes making it easier for private electricity producers to establish power stations in order to increase the electricity supply. In the area of gas for home heating and cooking the law would allow consumers to change their provider and thus lower prices.

In public transportation the law proposes opening additional lines of the Dan and Egged bus companies to competition because every time a line goes to a private operator the prices go down, frequency goes up, the number of riders increases and the service improves.

In health care it emerges that the health maintenance organizations are charging too high a price for supplementary health insurance.

The Economic Arrangements Law proposes reducing these sums and establishing another HMO to compete with the four that exist. In the area of television the law proposes allowing the public channels (1, 2, 10, 33 and 99) to be received by digital receiver that anyone can purchase. Viewers will be able to free themselves from the bear hug of the companies Hot and Yes!

In banking, the law proposes allowing Postal Bank to compete with the large banks to pressure them to reduce their fees and interest rates.

In mobile telephony the law recommends introducing more service providers into the market that will use the existing infrastructures and lower the prices of cellular calls.

But each of these reforms is facing strong opposition. Business tycoons are enlisting lobbyists and top lawyers to convince cabinet ministers and MKs to oppose every change.

Alongside them stand workers' committees that are unwilling to concede an iota of power. And there are politicians who stick to the obsolete and mistaken ideology that anything government-run is better than the free market.

Without the reforms in the Economic Arrangements Law the economy will grow more slowly and be less advanced, less competitive and poorer.

But what difference do the facts make? After all, even the bull, when he sees the red cloth waving in front of him, is incapable of restraining himself and charges ahead to his life's last battle.