Treasury budget director was opposed to 'package deal' in budget and Economic Arrangements Bill.
By SHARON WROBEL
Finance Ministry Budget Director Ram Belinkov resigned Wednesday in protest over the budget deal struck between the government and the Histadrut Labor Federation, which bypassed the Treasury's proposals.
"My responsibility to the state budget and the economy obliges me to submit my resignation, in light of the events of recent weeks," he said.
Belinkov, who has served in his position for two years, notified Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz of his decision to resign Tuesday morning, but promised to work toward passage of the 2009-2010 budget. He gave Steinitz his formal letter of resignation Wednesday morning.
"Belinkov's resignation did not come as a surprise to me," Steinitz said Wednesday at the Globes Capital Market conference in Tel Aviv.
In his letter to Steinitz, Belinkov harshly criticized the way the government had approved the budget. More specifically, he disapproved of the way that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's economic adviser, Ori Yogev, had bypassed the Treasury in recent days to hammer out the deal on the budget with the Histadrut and employers' representatives.
"Belinkov and I have known each other on a personal and professional level for many years, and I can say that his decision to leave the ministry was solely personal and is a great loss," Finance Ministry Accountant-General Shuki Oren said at the Globes conference. "He is one of the most honest and courageous people I know, who stands up for his principles."
Belinkov "did not have a choice," in light of comments he made Tuesday evening about the way negotiations over the budget were conducted by Yogev, someone familiar with the matter said.
Belinkov's remarks were picked up by a Channel 10 microphone in the hallway outside the room where ministers were hammering out a budget deal. He was overheard complaining to Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz that the budget process "simply can't be run this way. Can I allow that in the agreement with the Histadrut they will demand to separate the fictitious invoices, when we are trying to fight the crime world, because they want to buy [Histadrut chairman] Ofer Eini?... Prime ministers here have been sent home for less than that."
Relations between the Finance Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office have been tense over the past few days; the PMO canceled most of the budget cuts proposed by the Treasury, to enable it to reach a deal with the Histadrut and the employers.
The cabinet on Wednesday approved an increase in budget spending to 3 percent, up from the agreed 1.7% ceiling just a week ago, against the Treasury's wishes.
"The management over the last few days has been very problematic," Oren said. "There is no doubt that mistakes have been made, also within the Treasury. The Finance Ministry is not Shuki Oren or Ram Belinkov; it is more than that, and there is no budget without this structure."
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