Shas chairman, Minister of Interior Eli Yishai is conditioning the party's support for the Sheshinski committee recommendations on using royalties from oil and gas discoveries to finance national priority infrastructure projects. He believes that royalties should initially finance emergency services, such as the Fire and Rescue Services, including for the procurement of equipment, the hiring of more firefighters, and the establishment of an aerial firefighting squadron.
Yishai also wants money for the Evacuation, Nursing, and Deceased Administration, and for earthquake preparedness (through National Outline Plan 38). The Ministry of Interior is responsible for all three of these services.
Once this first wave of money is allocated, it will be proper to devote resources for education, employment, welfare, and other purposes deemed fit by the cabinet.
Sources inform ''Globes'' that Yishai told aides, "It is proper to channel the money that the State of Israel will receive from taxes back to the Israeli public. It's proper to set a timeframe for the transfer of taxes and national objectives."
Shas added that the basis of the prime minister and government's decision with regard to adopting the Sheshinski committee recommendations, or how they will be designed, was immediateness. "The public should get the maximum public advantage from the tax rates as soon as possible, with an emphasis on the first investment in emergency services, and only afterwards in objectives chosen by the government," a Shas source said.
Although some Shas MKs have expressed different opinions about adopting the committee recommendations, the party will ultimately vote unanimously.
The allocation of oil and gas royalties is liable to ignite arguments in the Knesset and cabinet. Former Economic Affairs Committee chairman MK Ophir Akonis (Likud) told "Globes" that he will fight to see that the royalties will be used for education, environmental protection, higher education, welfare, students, the periphery, and the health system. "This money must not go to the haredim (ultra-orthodox), for allotments and yeshivas. If that happens, we'll have done nothing. The government must decide not to allow these budgets to merely dissipate into the Treasury and from there to flow to the haredim," he said.
Another open issue is which Knesset committee will discuss the Sheshinski committee recommendations. Although Finance Committee chairman MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) says that Minister of Finance Yuval Steinitz wants this committee to discuss the recommendations, Economic Affairs Committee chairman MK Carmel Shama (Likud) says that his committee will discuss the recommendations together with the Finance Committee.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on January 16, 2011
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