Sheshinski: This stage is complete; still more we can do

Head of c'tee to decide how oil, gas revenues to be allocated says "I knew this was an economic mission on an unprecedented scale."

January 4, 2011 16:18
2 minute read.
Yuval Steinitz and Sheshinski at Finance Ministry

Steinitz, Sheshinski 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

Prof. Eytan Sheshinski on Tuesday told Army Radio that he feels that he did important work for the State of Israel in the area of royalties paid to the state from future oil and gas discoveries.

"This morning, I no longer read the newspaper to see what is written about me," he said jokingly. "We have completed this stage, but there are more things we have to do," he added.

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On Monday the Sheshinski Committee presented its final recommendations and suggested that the tax rate on profits of private oil and gas companies drilling offshore should rise from less than 30 percent at present to between 52% and 62%.

Asked whether there were attempts to reach the committee members in informal ways, Sheshinski replied, "Yes, and that's legitimate. The gas companies contacted me and other committee members, and tried to talk with us about the positions, but they did not try to offer me anything illegal or any kind of benefits.

"I knew that from the beginning that this was an economic mission on a scale that Israel might never have had before, whatever the price would be. It is not often that an economist has the chance to have an effect. I really hope that the recommendations will be implemented, and I hope that I made a contribution."

Sheshinski added, "I look at the process ahead with open eyes. The recommendations are now going to the political arena and that is how things work. There is a lot of talk about the connection between government and money, and it's hard to deal with this issue, because the group of gas developers have a lot of power and means."

"I know that the prime minister [Netanyahu] faced pressure from the gas companies, including from abroad, and he withstood them, and said nothing that indicated that these pressures influenced him, Sheshinski said. "I have not yet met the prime minister, and I assume that we will meet soon."

"I met Finance Minister [Yuval Steinitz] a few times, but these were administrative meetings. The finance minister did not try to influence the committee's work," said Sheshinski.

He concluded, "I have no political assessment how things will work out. All the politicians who spoke against [the committee] did not even wait for the final recommendations."

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