New Budgets Director Starts Today

From today Udi Nissan is head of the Finance Ministry's budgets division, probably the ministry's most important unit. He represents the first senior appointment made by Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz.

For the past 21 months Nissan, 42, has headed the Government Companies Authority, which is also part of the Finance Ministry. He was appointed to the GCA by the previous finance minister, Roni Bar-On.

A great deal of pressure had to be applied to Nissan before he finally agreed to accept the new position. He initially refused the offer. It has been two months since his predecessor, Ram Belinkov, quit.

There were eight candidates for the position, all of whom had served previously in senior positions in the budgets division. Nissan says he is planning on remaining in the post for the full four-year term.

Nissan started at the bottom of the budgets division in 1992. Over six and a half years he held a number of positions, including being the person responsible for the budgets for tourism, water and sewage.

He left to run the Jerusalem Development Authority. He later served as a director of Israel Railways, taught at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and worked as a private consultant before joining the GCA.

Nissan has a Ph.D. in economics from the Hebrew University, in addition to bachelor's and master's degrees in economics and business administration, also from Hebrew University. He is married with four children.

The PM needs to back the ministry

"If the prime minister continues to intervene in disputes between the treasury and government ministries or in disagreements between the treasury and the Bank of Israel, it will be a catastrophe for the finance minister, who will be unable to repair his image. It will also jeopardize budgetary discipline," Nissan said in an internal ministry discussion.

"If I thought that [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu would continue to intervene in the treasury's work, I would not have taken the job," Nissan added.

"It is all a matter of the frequency and the issue. For example, intervention in coalition negotiations is legitimate, but intervention in the budget may be; but now, in day-to-day work, it is necessary to let the finance minister work and decide, while the prime minister needs to back him up," Nissan said.

He also has plenty of controversial plans, such as cutting NIS 5 billion from the defense budget and opposing cuts to income taxes - at least for now.