Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Israel's bloated government


We have seem many manifestations of Israeli politicians not understanding their post in the past. There are countless examples of Israeli politicians caring more about their own positions than the good of the country. What many of our politicos seem to misunderstand is that they are representing the people. There sole job is to do what is best for the nation and not their ambition. An elected official does not become some holy person who when they reach the top of the political structure should forget their place and do what they see fit.
Sadly, this is a pipe dream. There are few politicians who understand their role here in Israel. The days of a Menachem Begin who lived in a two bedroom apartment while leading the country are gone.
The greatest debacle in recent years is the number of ministers debate. There used to be a law dictating that no Israeli government could have more than 18 ministers. The government of Binyamin Netanyahu of just a decade ago stuck to the legal limit of 18 ministers. Ehud Barak subsequently asked the Knesset to override the law, allowing him to appoint a government of 25 ministers. Ariel Sharon at one point presided over a government of 28 ministers, but he "only" had 25 at the outset.
Now the Ehud Olmert led Government will have 27 ministers. If this seems reasonable then perhaps it is in order to compare this with other nations. The Chinese government seems to do okay with a total of 28 ministers, just one minister more than the number
in the government being set up by Ehud Olmert. The new government will place Israel at the top of the list of developed countries in the world with the lowest number of residents for every government minister. The Chinese ministers, for example, can be jealous of their Israeli counterparts: While in Israel there is one minister for every 259,507 citizens – every Chinese minister is "responsible" for 47 million residents.
China is not alone. A Yedioth Ahronoth check found that countries with large populations make due with a minimal number of ministers. The United States runs itself as a strong power with 15 ministers in total. Every American minister has around 20 million citizens. In Russia there are just 16 ministers: One minister for every nine million residents.
Among developed countries there are not many countries which have more than 22 ministers. Together with Israel the list has only six other countries: France (32 ministers), South Africa, Australia, and China (each having 28 ministers).
One must not forget that the Israeli legislature is only 120 people, so to have almost a quarter of them sit in the executive makes a mockery of the system. Also, each ministry costs the taxpayers billions of Shekels to fund the extravagant financial package that ministers recieve with their post. This at a time when poverty in Israel is such an important issue. If I'm not mistaken didn't at least three of the new members of the coalition run on almost purely social platforms??
To be fair, Shas party leader Eli Yishai Monday called on Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Labor party chairman Amir Peretz not to appoint Cabinet ministers without portfolios. Such appointments often are made to satisfy political party demands for Cabinet posts even if there is no ministry.Yishai said that Shas would forfeit Cabinet posts without portfolios if it joins the coalition and if other coalition partners do the same.

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