Israel has been a strong parliamentary democracy with a vibrant opposition from its inception, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said at the sixth annual meeting of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Parliamentary Budget Officials and Independent Fiscal Institutions, which was hosted by the Knesset for the first time Monday.
“We are honored that this gathering is taking place in the Knesset,” Edelstein stated in his keynote address. “Parliamentary democracy should not be taken for granted. Israel is young. There is a terrible tendency to say the democratic process can be left for later and first a strong leader is needed to solve problems. Thank God that never happened to us.”
About 70 representatives from 29 parliaments around the world, including officials from the Turkish Finance Ministry, took part in the conference, which addressed parliamentary and public supervision over the preparation and approval of budgets, as well as the need to increase transparency.
Representatives of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and academics also participated in the conference, which began on Sunday and ends Tuesday.
Edelstein touted the Knesset’s work in supervising the government’s fiscal policy, thanking the Knesset staff members who make sure new MKs thoroughly understand the issues so they can examine the budget.
The Knesset Research and Information Center’s department for budgetary supervision was founded in 2007 toward that end and was the impetus for hosting the conference in the Knesset.
Edelstein focused on his efforts to shrink the Economic Arrangements Law, legislation passed alongside the state budget meant to lay out the government’s economic policy in greater detail. The bill tends to be lengthy and often includes articles that are not related to the budget.
“What we see of late is a certain meaningful narrowing down of the Arrangements Law,” the speaker explained.
“Most of what we saw in its final version was really legislation directly dealing with budgetary issues and not an attempt to produce [unrelated] legislation through an easy, speedy route.”
Edelstein recounted ordering that the Research and Information Center and Knesset Legal Department prepare explanations of every article in the Economic Arrangements Bill before it went to a vote and distribute it to all the MKs.
According to the Knesset speaker, this facilitated a more professional, less superficial discussion of the bill, with MKs demanding explanations on every figure.
Edelstein also addressed the Market Concentration Law, which he said he hopes will restructure parts of the economy in a positive way.
“Hopefully, the law will not reform the economy in a way that belongs in the previous century. In this century, things should be open and the market should be left to play its part,” he commented.
Participants in the conference spent Monday exchanging information on issues related to the supervision over parliamentary budgets, the cost of legislation and the analysis of fiscal rules pertaining to ceilings on public debt, budget deficits and expenditures.
Two representatives from the Turkish Finance Ministry, a man and a woman, appeared baffled when asked if there was any hesitation before they were sent to the conference in the Knesset.
“We still have relations with Israel, we’re from the Finance Ministry, not the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We have an invitation from the OECD,” one said.
However, the two asked that they not be named.