Poll: Budget talks ignore public's best interests

12% of respondents said MKs negotiating the finer points of the budget were concerned with what would most benefit their voters.

Politicians involved in the current budget negotiations have not considered the best interests of the public, which, if passed on time, could have serious consequences for society's weakest populations, according to a public opinion poll published Tuesday by social empowerment organization Yedid. Of the 509 people questioned by phone for the survey, which was conducted this week by research institute Ma'agar Mohot, only 12 percent said that Knesset members negotiating the finer points of the budget - set to be passed by the government late Wednesday night - were concerned with what would most benefit their voters. Close to half (46%) said they believed that the politicians did not have the interests of the public at heart. In addition, 44% of respondents said the budget currently being prepared would be seriously damaging to the weaker segments of the population, especially after the Treasury made aggressive attempts to impose a nationwide tax on fruits and vegetables and to make changes in day-care benefits for working mothers. Both moves were eventually blocked by the government. "I'm surprised by this public response," commented Yedid deputy director Ran Melamed, who has been involved in lobbying the Knesset over the past few months on social welfare aspects of the budget. "I actually believe that this time around, MKs have not been very effective at getting out the message that they are focused on social issues," he said. Melamed pointed to the response in the survey regarding the proposed tax on fruits and vegetables. The public was asked if they were satisfied with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's handling and eventual success in canceling the Treasury's plan, and 64% agreed that he had dealt with the issue in an appropriate manner. The problem, concluded Melamed, was that the Treasury's work in preparing the budget lacked transparency, both for the public and for lawmakers. He pointed out that the 2009 Economic Arrangements Bill, which will accompany the budget, had first appeared on MK Shelly Yacimovich's blog before being officially distributed. "Before next year's budget, we plan to work on changing this aspect and making some serious reforms in how the Treasury operates," added Melamed.