IDF Paratroopers relax after liberating the Western Wall during the Six Day War.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
Excessive IDF pensions are taking a big bite out of the country’s budget for pensioners, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira reported on Wednesday.
He noted that the IDF in recent years massively raised its pensions, leading to an NIS 2.9 billion budget increase from 2013- 2015 at an average rate of 8.5%.
A total of 63.9% of IDF pensioners received a pension increase of 7% or more, while 86.3% received an increase of at least 6%.
The comptroller also slammed the IDF for a lack of oversight on pensions, accusing it of refusing to hand over information to the Finance Ministry. He surmised that recent efforts to reduce the defense budget may have been based on incomplete data that did not fully capture the size of IDF pensions.
Following receipt of the pensions report, the IDF and the Defense Ministry said they had organized a series of meetings with the State Comptroller’s Office to address the criticism.
They said in a joint statement that, in practice, the IDF is already implementing most of the report’s recommendations as part of an “unprecedented process” to reduce the defense budget and increase transparency.
The process is part of the new salary and pension model for IDF career-track officers, which is expected to massively reduce the defense budget. Further, the IDF said it was forwarding bimonthly financial reports to the Finance Ministry and had appointed a special joint panel of IDF personnel and economists to continue to improve transparency.
A defense establishment source also argued that the spike in pensions was due to a 2011 amendment to the IDF Service Law which it had opposed, but was pushed through by the Finance Ministry. As of November 2015, an agreement to lower the retirement age for IDF officers is expected to negate the spike, said the source. The average retirement age for a career soldier in the IDF is 46, compared to age 67 for male civilians.
Last, the source added that one needs to be careful when comparing IDF pension figures to figures in other sectors, since the age of retirement and consideration of seniority work differently.
The report also said the state faces numerous structural problems with its pensions, which lead to many weaker sectors and lower-salaried workers having little oversight or choice when it comes to their pension funds and paying maximum pension management fees.
One controversy the comptroller jumped into was the issue of mandatory retirement age, regarding which Meretz Party leader Zehava Galon attacked him for supporting raising women’s retirement age.
She said this shows he cares more about the stability of the National Insurance Institute than he does about the plight of elderly women who would be harmed by such a change.