Surprise Budget Cut to Cover Swine Flu Shots, Defense

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz have a surprise for Israel's ministers as they return from their holiday break: a budget cut, in part to cover the cost of swine flu shots for the people. The NIS 2 billion cut is a surprise because it wasn't long ago that the government passed a two-year budget, for this year and 2010.

It would be more accurate to say that ministerial budgets will be cut, but the government will still be spending the money. The cost of preparing for the scenario of a swine-flu epidemic is estimated at NIS 0.5 billion. The other NIS 1.5 billion is money that defense is demanding for the home front and to beef up inventories. The money for the shots and shots, so to speak, is to come from a blanket cut from all ministerial budgets this year and next.

Cutting the budget to pay unexpected costs that arose, said Steinitz, is a departure from the days of Ehud Olmert's government, in which extra spending simply got added to the budget, creating deficits. Not under him: spend with one hand, save with the other, he says.