Lapid at faction meeting 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The Finance Committee on Wednesday approved a bill eliminating the two-year budget as of 2015, but it allowed the budgets for the remainder of 2013 and 2014 to be presented and passed together as a onetime exception.
“There’s a large gap between planning and implementation. We discovered this in analyzing the last two-year budget,” Finance Minister Yair Lapid said in his first appearance before the committee. Passing a budget in a two-year framework, he said, meant actual revenues could fall far short of those predicted.
“Today, we face a NIS 16 billion hole in revenues because of the difficulty of forecasting revenues two years early,” Lapid said. “In a chaotic world, we need to maintain confidence in our long-term fiscal stability,” he added.
Because the current budget is not expected to pass until late summer, Lapid said a one-time exception was prudent. “We won’t finish a budget and start another budget, it’s impossible,” he said.
Though most members of the committee, including several from the opposition, mostly agreed with Lapid’s assessment, a few presented reservations.
“The two-year budget at least allowed us to look at the long term to make plans,” Likud MK Gila Gamliel said.
Longer-term budgets allowed the government the certainty to invest in infrastructure projects such as railways without worrying their funds would dry up, she added. “If there’s a problem in implementing it, it’s appropriate to solve that problem,” said Gamliel.
Lapid agreed there were positive aspects to the two-year budget, but said the “drawbacks in our opinion far outweigh the benefits.”
Labor MK Stav Shafir welcomed the end of the two-year budget because cutting out debate every other year “harmed the democracy of Israel.”
She criticized Lapid, however, for not revealing details of the current budget. “It’s very important for us to understand why this hasn’t been released to the public, or even to us,” she said.
United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni, the committee’s former chairman, said the entire process should be simplified and that the Economic Arrangements Law should be shortened to a number of pages to give the Knesset more input on economic policies stemming from the budget.