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December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Finance Ministry’

Israel to Vacate ‘All’ IDF Bases in Central Region

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Israel plans to vacate all its bases in the central region in the coming months, according to Harel Locker, director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, who has been tasked with the goal in order to streamline the military system.

Locker made the statement at Tuesday’s Globes-BDO Ziv Haft Capital Market Conference, saying budget cuts for the defense establishment had forced the move.

Last week the IDF warned it was halting air force training and non-active flights, as well as all non-active training programs for career and reserve personnel due to the budget cuts imposed by Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid.) The drastic measures came following the ministry’s refusal to infuse additional funds into defense coffers which had already been approved in a special vote by the Cabinet in October. The squabble over funds comes at a time when a new unity government between the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority and the Hamas terrorist organization has been re-established under the PLO in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, and terrorism against Israel is on the rise on both sides of the 1949 Armistice line (also known as the “Green Line” or “pre-1967″ line.)

“All of the land on which IDF bases between Haifa and Be’er Sheva” are located would be up for sale, Locker said – effectively raising money for defense through the capital markets rather than earmarking funds in the state budget.

“This sort of government investment will contribute to economic activity in the market. It will also free up land for more than 100,000 housing units in high-demand areas in central Israel,” he noted.

In addition, Locker claimed the move towards the northern and southern periphery would boost the economy in those areas. “Tens of thousands of career officers and soldiers will work, live, buy and enrich” those regions, he claimed.

However, so far the move by the air force to the periphery doesn’t seem to have done much other than create havoc on roads in the south that were never built to accommodate the increased amount of traffic. The construction project to widen and develop the area around the Nevatim air force base, meanwhile – particularly the reconstruction of Route 31 from the Shoqet Junction near Be’er Sheva to Arad – has turned the entire northeastern Negev upside down for more than a year, with little to show for it other than more vehicular accidents.

Locker said the state would fund the project through sales of the land on which the bases are now located – “the most expensive lands in high demand areas… for tens of billions of shekels.” He said he was turning to the business community gathered at the conference for extra-budgetary financing of the project – “financial institutions, banks and other entities.” He added that he hoped to complete the process “within a few weeks.”

Budget Cuts Leave Israeli Air Force Training Flights Up in the Air

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

The IDF is grounding training flights in the Israeli air force, effective immediately, according to a report late Tuesday night by Walla!

Starting next Sunday, pilots will fly only during actual operations and in flight school, IAF fighter jet commanders were told Tuesday night. The IDF decision to ground the planes includes reserve pilots as well, and was made jointly by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.

The decision to clip the wings of Israel’s air force came after the Finance Ministry refused to send the Defense Ministry a payment of NIS 750 million ($215 million) for basic maintenance, training and drills.

Last October the Defense Ministry had asked for an increase in its budget after it had taken steps to streamline operations. The Cabinet approved a decision to transfer NIS 2.75 billion to the defense establishment from the budget surplus that existed at the time.

Nevertheless, Finance Minister Yair Lapid has continued to advocate for a cut in the budget instead, hoping to use those funds for social services.

In the long run, it may be that the equipment will come out the biggest loser of all, however. Brig.-Gen. (res) Assaf Agmon, head of the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, was quoted as saying, “a plane that doesn’t fly suffers in terms of its condition; rubber dries out, the body is damaged. It’s for good reason pilots often air out their plane for 15 minutes before a mission, so as to preserve the plaine’s flight condition.”

A source in the Defense Ministry told Walla!, the Finance Ministry “refused to hold logical negotiations while at least making good on its earlier commitments, and therefore we had no choice but to make decisions like these.”

“The IDF planned in a responsible manner the work plans for 2014 according to the missions and the size of the army, as approved in October by the Cabinet, and in January by the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committe,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement. “Throughout that time the meaning of the approval of a work plan with an inadequate budget was presented to all the relevant parties. It was made clear that in May, the IDF would reach an extreme point at which hard decisions would be required.”

FM Spokesperson Yigal Palmor Resigning, Joins Senior Staff Flight

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

According to a report published Tuesday in the Hebrew-language daily Maariv, veteran Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor plans to resign in the near future.

If the report is true, Palmor’s resignation will be the latest in a series of flights by seasoned professionals from the office that is the face of the State of Israel, representing this country to the world. Palmor, 53, speaks numerous languages and has worked at the ministry for 28 years, serving as a deputy spokesperson since the mid-1990s and as official spokesperson since 2008.

Among the others who left over the past several years are: Lior Weintraub, chief of staff at the Washington bureau; Yaki Dayan, head of the Los Angeles office; Ran Curiel, vice-director at the European office; Ilan Maor, Israel’s envoy to Shanghai; and Amos Nidai, former ambassador to Beijing. Each allegedly left “for his own reasons,” according to the Foreign Ministry.

But it is no secret that relations between ministry employees and “upper management” have been strained at best. Over the past year they carried out a worldwide strike – an unheard-of move by envoys and people at the foreign ministry – due to a long-unresolved contract dispute with the Finance Ministry over wages and benefits.

Palmor was left to explain that to the media, including having to face the unenviable task of dealing with the fallout over holiday supplies not reaching the famed Nepal Chabad House in time for its annual Passover Seder in the Himalayas due to the strike.

Further complicating the picture are the reduced numbers in the ministry’s lower echelons due to the wage and benefits dispute, which has meant there are fewer younger officials to rely upon.

There is also a great deal of confusion about exactly who represents this country to the world. The establishment in 2006 of the prime minister’s National Information Directorate alienated many at the foreign ministry; at that time, the ministry already was contending with the issue of its releases simultaneously arriving in editors’ boxes with those of the Government Press Office, those of the IDF, the Defense Ministry, and those of the Prime Minister’s Office – not to mention releases from the spokespersons of individual politicians and members of Knesset.

It has never been clear to most journalists exactly who, precisely, represents the views of the State of Israel as a specific, sole entity. If as a journalist one calls the prime minister’s office to ask that question, the answer often depends upon the question itself – “exactly what is this about?”

One cannot ever get a straight answer to a straight question in the State of Israel, as a journalist – and this may be the greatest problem for this country’s public relations, if not perhaps the impetus behind the exodus of the foreign ministry’s senior staff.

Rich Get Richer: Germany Saves $55 Billion on Crisis

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Germany is profiting from the debt crisis that’s debilitating most of their neighbors to the south and south-east, by saving more than 40 billion euros in interest on its government debt. Meanwhile, German treasury bonds doing fabulously well due to strong demand from investors seeking a safe haven, Spigel reported.

According to the German Finance Ministry, Germany will save a total of €40.9 billion (roughly $55 billion) in interest payments in the years 2010 to 2014, because of the difference between actual and budgeted interest payments.

On average, the interest rate on all new federal government bond issues fell by almost a full percentage point in the 2010 to 2014 period, according to the report, and Germany is a considered a very safe creditor in investors’ circles.

The rule of when it rains it pours seems to be working in Germany’s favor as well: it is seeing unprecedented high tax revenues from its robust economy, which has also led to a decline in new borrowing.

Between 2010 and 2012, the German government issued €73 billion (about $97 billion) less in new debt than it had planned.

On the other side of things, according to the Finance Ministry, the costs of the euro crisis for Germany have so far added up to €599 million, Spiegel reported.

This should be good news to all of us paranoids who fear a reawakening of the sleeping German militaristic giant who would try once more to conquer the world. Who needs to conquer the world when you can buy it for so much less?

Cabinet Passes ‘Austerity Budget’

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

The Cabinet Monday evening passed a two-year budget, nearly five months late, with tax hikes and across-the-board cuts in spending, Only one minister voted against the  budget, the second and last time it will cover two years instead of one.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who is chairman of the Yesh Atid party, said after the vote that the budget is “first stage in changing peoples’ lives in Israel.”

The Value Added Tax on most goods, except food, will rise from 17 percent to 18 percent. Income taxes will rise for upper income families, and ministries will have to get by with last outlays, meaning cuts in services.

Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer announced a surprise quarter-point cut in the interest ate Monday night, two weeks ahead of the end-of-the month decision n whether to change the rate for the following month. He also praised the new budget, which could lead the country out of a huge deficit that has mounted in the past three years following several years of a surplus.

Fayyad Hospitalized

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was hospitalized on Monday after being feeling ill at his office in the Finance Ministry, which he temporarily heads, according to the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency.

Fayyad was rushed to a Ramallah hospital reportedly was in stable condition.

Do We Finally Have a Coalition?

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

Headlines are “hinting” that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has finally gotten some sort of agreement with the Bobbsey Twins, a.k.a., Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett.  Those two rookie Members of Knesset have been holding a very nice dowry of over thirty Knesset Members which Netanyahu desperately needs if he’s going to be able to have a workable coalition.

70-strong Israeli coalition nearing completion (Times of Israel)
Lapid to be finance minister, Bennett to be minister of trade, foreign portfolio to be held for Liberman; ultra-Orthodox parties going into opposition

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid is warming up to the idea of becoming Finance Minister, party sources said on Saturday, a week before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s deadline to form a government. Nothing is for sure yet, but the press has been saying that Lapid is willing to take the Finance Ministry.

Lapid and Netanyahu met on Friday, for talks their spokeswomen called “positive, with much progress made,” and on Saturday, in a meeting that was still ongoing (Jerusalem Post).

I can’t imagine a tougher challenge for him.  It’s so much easier to complain from the outside.  He campaigned on a social/financial platform.  It takes money to give the people what he claimed to want to give them/us.  Let’s see if it’s really possible, once he sees the real numbers.

“It all looks different from inside the government” is what many right-wing politicians have insisted when answering complaints about the contrast of their campaign promises and government policies.  I’m curious to see how Lapid will handle the “hot potato.”

If Lapid and Bennett have really come to an agreement with Bibi, I guess they’ll tie up the loose ends by the time Peres returns and United States President Barack Hussein Obama comes for his visit.

But in the meantime, we’ll just wait for the details…

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