Israel’s cabinet ministers on Friday morning unanimously approved the state budget and economic plan for 2019, at the conclusion of a marathon session that began Thursday morning. After debates, each lasting long hours, in which ministers tried to reduce the cuts to their budgets, it was decided to make significant budgetary additions to the social welfare ministries.
The ministers also signed an exceptional agreement promising that no faction or MK may raise additional demands beyond the agreed upon budget of 397.3 billion shekel, or $116 Billion.
Should a government minister raise additional budgetary demands, the funds will come at the expense of ministries headed by his/her fellow faction members in the coalition government.
The new budget, which was approved by the government a year ahead of the required date, includes several reforms, such as tax cuts (Net Family Plan) to couples with children, increased nursing services for the elderly and day care centers for children, shortening school vacations, shortening the work week, and approved export of Cannabis products.
The education budget will $17.6 billion; the health budget $11 billion; the welfare and support for Holocaust survivors budget $3.8 billion; disability pensions $586 million; and the Ministry of Defense budget will be reduced to just under $19 billion (down from roughly $21 billion).
It is probably a hopeful, even inspiring sign, that Israel’s education budget for 2019 is nearly on a par with its security budget.
The new budget addresses two critical needs of Israel’s economy: the highest budget for the Agriculture Ministry since its inception – $537 million, a 12% increase, which includes budgeting for extra foreign workers in agriculture and an additional budget for the struggle against Arab agricultural terrorism; and the Science Ministry getting its all-time highest budget of $164 million, also a 12% increase over the current budget.
After its approval by the government, the next hurdle for the 2019 budget will be in the Knesset, where it is expected to pass by the end of the winter session in late March.
Political observers have noted that the approval of next year’s budget at such an early date would be a sign of the coalition’s resilience and stability in the coming year, or, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put it Thursday morning, at the start of the budget meeting: “This government has come to work and will continue to work together until the end of its term – in November 2019.”
Unless, of course, Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan’s Police Department were to mess up this picture with its corruption investigations of three different government ministers, including the PM.