The cabinet overwhelmingly backed Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz’s proposal Sunday to introduce legislation to make his controversial biennial budget format a permanent part of the political landscape.

Subject to Knesset approval, all future governments will be obligated to produce budgets every two years – except during election years. As the next election must take place by October 2013 at the latest, this means the next biennial budget will be for 2014-15. The legislation also leaves open the possibility for the finance minister and Knesset to order a temporary reversion to a single- year format in the event of an economic emergency.

The government introduced the unorthodox biennial budget format in 2009- 10 and repeated the cycle in 2011-12 amid heavy opposition criticism. Steinitz and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have frequently credited these budgets with helping the Israeli economy maintain stability and avoid the slowdowns suffered by other developed economies during the past four years.

Steinitz noted in a press statement that Israel is the first country to enshrine the format into law. Calling the reform “revolutionary,” he said it also had the enthusiastic support of the International Monetary Fund and Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development Secretary-General, Angel Gurria.

His statement said the measure would create more economic certainty, and have a positive influence on bodies that work with or are supported by government ministries.

It said it would also increase Israel’s fiscal credibility with the private sector and foreign investors.

In response, Opposition Leader Shelly Yechimovich labeled the measure “antidemocratic” and “anti-economic,” and accused the government of leading the Israeli economy down the road to uncertainty. She added that the government’s motive for introducing the measure was political survival but that it would produce “destructive” results.

“It is for good reason that no other country in the world has adopted this dubious practice, and that Israel remains the sole guinea pig,” Yechimovich said. “In contrast to the finance minister’s claims that the biennial budget creates more certainty, the reality is that the amount of alterations made to the budget in the past two years has risen drastically because of the Treasury’s inability to plan so long-term.”

She added, “Instead of engaging in responsible economic planning that would benefit the citizenry… Netanyahu continues to put Israel ahead of other Western states in socio-economic gaps and poverty rates, and now embarks on an economic adventure which has proved to be inefficient and not serious.”

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