Lapid can get the job done

If Lapid succeeds in making the budget transparent, this feat alone would be considered a complete success.

By RON TIRA
April 3, 2013 21:44
3 minute read.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid addresses Conference of Presidents, Feb 12

Yair Lapid 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

Finance Minister Yair Lapid is being called on to face an economic crisis for which he is not responsible. This will demand a large investment of political capital on his part, but no office is more fitting for Lapid than the Finance Ministry, where he will be able to realize his potential and help the neglected tax-paying citizens of Israel.

The ministry is the crossroads through which billions of shekels are transferred to inappropriate places, and if Lapid succeeds in making these transactions and obscure clauses transparent – and then reducing them – then he will have done his job well.

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The budget reveals some information, but conceals even more. For example, it is difficult to decipher how much more the haredi community benefits from public funds over other communities. And it is very hard to identify the inequalities in the national budget. An engineering student at the Technion is required to pay tuition so that he will be able to contribute to Israel’s economy, but a yeshiva student receives grants so that he won’t have to make any contribution to Israeli society.

How much? It’s a secret.

It’s difficult to solve the mystery of all of the monetary grants, which include housing benefits, land subsidies, income supplements, child allowances, municipal tax benefits, subsidized day care, as well as other code words that are meant to hide from taxpayers the truth about how monies are being used.

If Lapid succeeds in making the budget transparent, this feat alone would be considered a complete success. Afterwards, the light of day will cleanse it of all the corruption.

It is most appropriate that the ministry be the one to face this challenge. Let’s be honest: at the end of the day, haredim won’t be forced to join the army, tens of thousands of them won’t sit in prison, and the IDF is not structured to cope with such a large haredi population.

The way to reach equality is not by forcing them to do something, but by enforcing sanctions when they don’t do it. And the key to these sanctions lies within the Treasury: appropriations and benefits should be denied to individuals and the organizations to which they belong.

The same method should be used in connection to core curriculum studies. The police won’t break into yeshivas armed with math and English books. What matters is that all budgetary aid to institutions that don’t agree to incorporate core studies be denied. And again, the most appropriate office to withhold these funds is the ministry.

The haredi lifestyle is not sustainable, and only exists due to the taxes imposed on non-haredi Israeli citizens. As the percentage of the haredi community in the general population grows, so too does the burden on those who are required to support them – until the system finally collapses.

Therefore, this is the greatest challenge facing the Israeli economy.

The haredi population is not acquiring an education that can be applied in the workplace and is not encouraging its members to join the work force. Its economic productivity is similar to that of the weakest countries in Africa. The large number of children in haredi families, along with an education system that does not provide its participants with the skills needed to make a living in the modern world, guarantee that this cycle of poverty will only grow.

The Israeli economy is being attacked in a pincer movement: On the one hand, there is the growing haredi population that is not participating in the economy, and on the other, it is consuming more and more of our economic resources.

Lapid is also the right person to demand that the public make cuts before imposing additional taxes.

For example, someone like Lapid would ask why the public needs to pay the billions of shekels consumed by the Israel Broadcasting Authority each year. Residents get nothing in return for this fee.

And why do tax-paying citizens need to finance 250 local authorities, mayors, deputy mayors, spokespeople, and state-sanctioned rabbis? Aren’t 100 local authorities enough for eight million citizens? And what is the point of the religious councils? The Israeli public establishment is saturated with unnecessary organizations, superfluous officials and redundant activity.

Only a finance minister like Lapid can cut down on all of this excess before deciding to raise taxes.

The author is a lawyer and businessman.

Translated by Hannah Hochner.


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