Likud Advisors Urge Higher Child Stipends

The Likud party's advisory teams are urging that the Benjamin Netanyahu government, assuming it forms, jack up child allowances by tens of percent - but only for the first three children.

The fourth child might be included in the program, but that's where it would stop, say the "100 First Days" and coalition advisory teams. The biggest increases would be for the second and third child, the teams suggest.

In an original move, the teams also propose that the government push through a budget for the year 2010 together with one for 2009.

This year has begun without a budget, forcing the government to function based on the 2008 one - without changes. Each month the government may spend a twelfth of the 2008 budget and not a shekel more, nor may any new programs be instituted. Approving the 2010 budget with the 2009 one would preclude the possibility of a similar predicament as next year begins.

Also, point out party sources, there's little point in slamming through a budget in the middle of 2009 and immediately starting to push through another one.

Possibly, in order to achieve that aim, the Netanyahu government will quickly jam through a legislative amendment giving itself 90 days to approve a budget for the year after its inauguration. Under present law, unless it has an approved budget in hand within 45 days of that date, the government must dissolve and new elections must be held.

It would be impossible to put together and obtain cabinet and Knesset approvals for two annual budgets inside a month and a half, explain Likud sources.

The 2009 budget would be based on a deficit target of NIS 35 billion, which is equivalent to 5% of Israel's GDP. The 2010 would be built on a lower deficit target.

The "100 First Days" team is headed by Yuval Steinitz, while the coalition team is headed by Gideon Sa'ar.

The teams and prime minister-designate Netanyahu are also discussing who might be finance minister, in the absence of a natural candidate. Two candidates of rising chances are Silvan Shalom, who's been finance minister before, and Gideon Sa'ar. But the lead candidates remain Netanyahu himself and Avigdor Lieberman, chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu.

Shalom, who served as finance minister from 2001 to 2003, is also a candidate to be foreign minister. Sa'ar, a close associate of Netanyahu's, would prefer the Justice Ministry, but might wind up at finance if Lieberman gets his way with his demand that Daniel Friedmann remain justice minister, say Likud insiders.

Netanyahu slashed child allowances as finance minister between 2003 and 2005. His proposed plan would be effected in stages, not by sudden increase. .

In other news of the needy, the Finance Ministry, National Insurance Institute and Welfare Ministry have agreed on terms to widen the pool of people eligible for unemployment, by shortening the period of work one must have worked beforehand. Beforehand, to be eligible, the applicant had to have worked for at least 12 of the 18 months preceding the request. Under the new rule, the applicant must have worked for 9 of the 18 months. The matter hasn't been finalized, though.