The Israeli government is struggling to get the changes in the 2023 budget approved. Discussions in the Knesset Finance Committee were halted after the coalition coordinator on the committee Likud MK Eliyahu Revivo threatened to vote against the proposed bill to increase the fiscal deficit, which would be required for the approval of the revised budget submitted by Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich.
Sources close to Revivo says that most Likud MKs support his position. The Finance Committee discussions were halted for consultations in the room of committee chairman MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) with Ministry of Finance representatives.
The bill to widen the permitted fiscal deficit to 3.7% of GDP would allow government spending to increase by NIS 30 billion, of which NIS 17 billion is for defense expenditure and NIS 13 billion for rehabilitating the country.
Revivo said, "I oppose increasing the deficit to 3.7%. If the Ministry of Finance does not present where we can make cuts without increasing the deficit so significantly then I will vote against. I am not somebody's rubber stamp. I will not vote without receiving full and thorough details from the Ministry of Finance why they are widening the deficit without trying to cut other budgetary sources. The Ministry of Finance does everything in the dark. I won't support this."
Revivo said to Itay Temkin, the deputy head of the Ministry of Finance budget division, "You found budget items that could be offset in favor of leveraging the needs of the war. Some of them have not come here to the committee because they fell by the wayside. Please state what you saw fit to cut."
Temkin replied that in the budget department they recommended that the budgets of small government ministries, all of whose budgets are based on coalition funds, be transferred to the war effort. "We proposed that there would be no budget for them, but this is your decision. We proposed that in 2023 these ministries would not benefit from a budget, which is entirely by virtue of Proposal 511 (distribution of coalition funds). In the end, it was decided to cut them, but we recommended a bigger cut."
The Ministry of Finance did not specify exactly which ministries were involved, but the MKs in the committee mentioned the Ministries of the Negev and the Galilee, Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage of Israel, Settlement and National Missions, and Diaspora Affairs and Combatting Antisemitism. Revivo said, "We know that this is NIS 6 billion that could have been cut."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on December 5, 2023.
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2023.