Last night (Monday), the government approved the changes proposed in the 2023 state budget because of the war in the Gaza Strip. Benny Gantz and the other National Unity ministers voted against the revised budget, in protest against the fact that funds allocated to coalition parties were only partly cut.
Following its approval in the government, the revised budget will now go to the Knesset Finance Committee and then to the Knesset plenum. As reported by "Globes", the Ministry of Finance fears that the addition to the budget will yet grow because of pressures by ministers on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to receive a slice of the emergency funding.
The proposal brought before the government by Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich included a cut of NIS 1 billion to the funds allocated in the original budget to coalition parties for spending on their own constituents and projects. The Ministry of Finance Budgets Division had sought a cut of NIS 2.5 billion to these funds.
The revised budget also includes an addition of NIS 30 billion, most of which, NIS 17 billion, will be used to cover military expenditure. NIS 13.5 billion will cover civilian spending caused by the war, such as aid to families evacuated from the war zones.
Minister of Economy and Industry Nir Barkat was the first of the Likud ministers to state that he would oppose the revised budget. The assessment in the Ministry of Finance is that Barkat, and other ministers such as Minister of Transport Miri Regev and Ministry of Tourism Haim Katz, will also put pressure on Netanyahu and Smotrich to receive enlarged budgets. Expenditure is thus liable to rise by NIS 1-2 billion beyond the amount approved last night.
Netanyahu said at the beginning of the government meeting, "We have challenges, but since we have built a strong economy here, we are capable of doing what we are doing today - passing a budget of NIS 30 billion - for both military and civilian and social needs, and of course we will be ready later on with an additional budget. For the present, this is the required step."
Commenting on the extension to the term of Governor of the Bank of Israel Amir Yaron, which was approved at the meeting, Netanyahu said, "I am sure that everyone will also back the decision on the governor’s appointment. It broadcast to the markets that all in all we are responding in the best possible way to the war in which we find ourselves."
Smotrich told ministers at the meeting, "I think that everyone agrees on 99% of this budget, both on the sources and on the applications. It may be that there are those here who find this or that item uncongenial, ministers who would like a little more for their ministries because it really is needed, that’s fine. In the end, though, I think that this is very important to the sense of unity and solidarity that we should all convey here to the citizens of the state of Israel."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 28, 2023.
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2023.