The Bottom Line / The Known Donor

Ehud Olmert is a good man. It's a fact. But the finance minister does not care about economic considerations.

Ehud Olmert is a good man. It's a fact. Yesterday, during the meeting of the ministerial committee on disengagement, an interesting proposal of his was scheduled for a vote, but never came up for discussion. According to the proposal, government companies must be directed "to hire workers from among the evacuees from Gush Katif and the northern West Bank" so that the total number of evacuees hired is "not less than one percent of the company's current workforce, and not less than one worker."

In other words, the finance minister does not care about economic considerations. What if the government companies want to rationalize their workforce and reduce their employee ranks? Maybe they are losing money? Perhaps the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) wants engineers and technicians who are Technion graduates (1 percent of IEC's workforce is about 100 employees!)? Maybe some of the government companies have to be competitive? Perhaps there are managers who want to manage? Cut the crap, we're in election campaign mode, and the government companies have to serve us, the politicians. Otherwise, what's their purpose?

Draconian penalty

Olmert continues, writing that if a company dares not hire the required number of workers by a certain date, it will "pay the state treasury NIS 500,000 for each worker not hired" - a draconian penalty that leaves no options.

Of course what we have here is a narrow and cynical political calculation meant to curry favor from the evacuees and their supporters. But there is a little problem. According to Section 4a of the government companies law, government companies are required to act in accordance with the same business considerations as non-governmental companies, and it is obvious that a non-governmental company would not hire people it doesn't need.

But the law also states that such unacceptable actions can be taken if the government defines them as "other operating considerations." In other words, you can pretend that black is white even though it will remain black.

Good governance

One of the last actions by Ophir Pines-Paz as interior minister was to sign off on regulations stipulating that municipality representatives in municipal corporations must be reviewed by a special committee headed by a district judge to ensure they meet eligibility requirements. In essence, this is an expansion of the Ravivi Committee for examining political appointments to government companies.

Until now, mayors have appointed party workers to municipal corporations' boards, and the results sometimes have been extremely embarrassing. But now the candidates will have to meet minimum conditions of an academic degree and at managing a corporation for at least five years, serving in a senior public position, or working in the same area as that of the corporation. In other words, things can change. One can maintain good governance that is free of political interests.

Elections immediately

The elections will be held on March 28, more than four months from now. That is an incredible waste of time and money. In England, when a prime minister dissolves parliament, the elections are held within three weeks! The campaign period must be shortened. That would entail changing the law so that no more than two months can pass between the prime minister's decision to disperse the Knesset and the holding of new elections.

Okay, so it would not be three weeks here as in England, but this would still reduce the period of the transition government. That, in turn, would reduce the period for election economics, and the time in which the state is operating without a budget, without reforms, without structural changes, and without diplomatic activity: a challenge to the legislators.