Taking Stock / What Won't Happen in 2006

1. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will pay the price for the corruption scandals that hounded him in recent years. The polls will show the public flouts expectations and stops looking for generals to lead it, showing a sudden yearning for ethically clean politicians.

2. The prime minister and Finance Ministry put together a plan to cut 20 percent public sector flab over seven years, to free NIS 20 billion a year to help the elderly, the poor and to promote education among the weaker segments of society.

3. The data systems of the National Insurance Institute, the Labor and Welfare Ministry and the Income Tax Authority will be upgraded, so the government can actually allocate that NIS 20 billion to the people who really need it.

4. The Finance Ministry will announce that it will no longer infuse NIS 80 million a month into Israel Military Industries (which it has been doing for some months now, without telling the public). It will reallocate the money to expanding the drug basket (meaning the list of subsidized drugs to which members of the health funds are entitled). The ministry will thus be sending a rare message, in fact the first, to the flabby, inefficient organizations run by powerful unions, while freeing resources to help the needy.

5. The new antitrust commissioner will launch investigations into some of the most powerful companies in the land and make arrests when discovering evidence of price fixing and abuse of monopolistic status.

6. The Israel Securities Authority, the Bank of Israel and the Finance Ministry will set aside their ego battles and establish a body to supervise the capital market. This body will create an aggressive regulatory policy regarding all the people in Israel managing other people's money (a NIS 1.7 trillion-a-year industry). People failing to obey the rules will have their money-management licenses suspended for ever.

7. The Finance Ministry will announce the introduction of IRAs. Each citizen will be able to fully manage his or her own pension plans and obtain tax benefits, too. Half the clients of the insurance companies will jump ship immediately.

8. Channel 2 will stop airing its hair-raising exposes of plumbers who overcharged for unclogging a sink and mechanics who fixed a perfectly healthy exhaust pipe, or unhealthy practices at hair-removal clinics. It will broadcast five investigative journalism shows into the great monopolies and the richest, most powerful people in Israel, including some of the biggest advertisers. The shows will shake corporate Israel to the core as ratings shoot through the roof.

9. Amir Peretz will declare, in the course of his statesmanship campaign, that economic policies increasing competition, improving productivity and reducing unemployment demand the monopolies be exposed to competition. He will also rescind his protection from the most powerful unions.

10. Israel Securities Authority chairman Moshe Terry will forgo 10 percent of the quota of news stories appearing every day in the business press about him and the ISA; he will file charges against one of the most powerful financial institutions or managers.

11. The Israeli press will devote 0.005 percent of the space it dedicated to covering Arcadi Gaydamak's New Year Party, to covering the mushrooming, terrifying scope of pension liabilities for ex-army and security personnel.

12. The average Israeli investor/saver/taxpayer will devote 0.01 percent of the time he spends reading about singers Maya Buskila and Shiri Maimon, to understanding how the government, the politicians and the great corporate juggernauts are trampling his interests.

13. Politicians, economists and public personalities will undertake to abandon demagoguery and genuinely think about how to conquer poverty. They will announce the realization that only genuine, long-term structural changes in the economy and in the welfare and education systems, can do it.

14. Institutionals managing oh some half-trillion shekels will declare war on the interested shareholders and top managers of the Tel Aviv-listed companies that are bleeding the companies dry. They will stop fixating on yields a month at a time, or their next job at one of these companies. They will shun all companies whose managers or owners milked them dry in the last decade.

15. Ten of the richest people in Israel will stop donating cash at highly publicized occasions. They will start giving genuine backing to politicians and public personalities who genuinely care and are trying to make a difference, not only take care of their own personal futures.