Bennett, Liberman take needless import bureaucracy down a notch

The Prime and Finance ministers have pushed Israel’s import standards toward the international model.

 Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman chats with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on March 20. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman chats with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on March 20.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Ask any immigrant if they’re satisfied with the price and quality of their vacuum cleaner. You’ll be hard pressed to get a thumbs up on both counts. A quality name-brand machine can be extremely expensive and hard to find in Israel due to import woes. As a result, local brands don’t have to match the high quality of their international counterparts. That might change in the near future.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman signed off on the abolishment of several dozen national import standards that block imports to Israel from developed countries, as well as a wide range of regulations that deviate from international standards. Eliminating these national deviations is expected to lower barriers for importing goods, increase competition and lead to a reduction in the cost of living.

Some of the products included in the reform are vacuum cleaners, pressure cookers, faucets, lamps, mattresses, floor tiles, barbecues, cribs, cots and diaper units. The hope is that eased access to these things will lead to a shift in the Israeli economy.

Bennett said, “This is how we fight the cost of living from the root; open real competition. Instead of adopting the ‘as is’ standard, we have formulated a method that adopts the ‘as Israel’ standard.

“From now on, anyone will be able to bring any product that meets the European standard,” he continued. “The market will be open to competition and a variety of products, without unnecessary bureaucracies and especially at much lower costs. We have promised to reduce unnecessary regulation, and we are following through.”

"We have promised to reduce unnecessary regulation, and we are following through”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman
 Freight being loaded March 16, 2011 (credit: YAAKOV NAUMI/FLASH90) Freight being loaded March 16, 2011 (credit: YAAKOV NAUMI/FLASH90)

Where will Israelis feel the change?

The changes address some of the biggest concerns for consumers who want to purchase appliances at a reasonable price. Until now, unnecessary regulation has hindered the importation of a wide array of products. Many items are required to go through additional quality inspection from the Israeli Standards Institute; an expensive process that is seen as unnecessary by many importers and shop owners.

Last week, Kfir Fisher, owner of Pardes Hana-based computer and electronics store MetakTech, told The Jerusalem Post about his frustration with this process, specifically in relation to the importation of video game consoles such as Sony’s PlayStation 5. He explained that the process is redundant, as these products have already received seals of quality assurance from international respected institutions.

“Sony doesn’t need [additional quality inspection]. Many computers don’t need it. Monitors don’t need it,” he said, adding that the Standards Institute still needs its pound of flesh. “They still need their Israeli seal of approval, which makes things more expensive to the end consumer because of all this [red tape],” said Fisher.

Liberman said, “There is no reason why a vacuum cleaner approved in Berlin will not be good in Israel. Adapting Israeli regulation to what is accepted in [the rest of] the world will increase competition and reduce the cost of living.”

“Adapting Israeli regulation to what is accepted in [the rest of] the world will increase competition and reduce the cost of living"

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman

The jury is still out on how quickly the effects will be felt by consumers. However, if you’ve been thinking about importing a pressure cooker and shouldering the extra expense just so you can cook raw beans in under 15 minutes, it might be wise to hold off for a spell.