Israel’s Budget Chief Quits Amid ‘Impossible’ Working Conditions
The head of Israel’s government budget office said he’s quitting, and took aim at the country’s finance minister for creating an environment that made it “impossible” to create economic certainty in the middle of a global pandemic.
The government hasn’t passed a budget for this year in the face of an ongoing dispute between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who are yet to to reconcile their differences over the length of the proposed spending plan.
Israel’scentral bank and most economists have urged the government to pass a budget as soon as possible to give the country a clearer sense of where money will be allocated while the coronavirus courses through the country.
Last week, Netanyahu and Gantz agreed to push back the deadline to pass a new budget to December. Failing to meet that target would trigger a fourth round of elections in two years, likely exacerbating the country’s expected economic contraction.
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Outgoing budget chief Shaul Meridor said Sunday that the Finance Ministry — under the helm of Israel Katz, who’s sided with Netanyahu’s view of passing a budget for the remainder of this year only — has been making decisions influenced by “narrow interests,” and displayed “blunt disrespect” for the work of ministry professionals.
That added up to a “trampling of values, rules and norms” to Israeli citizens and to the world, Meridor said.
“In the past few months, and even more so in the past few weeks, it has become impossible to execute my job as Head of the Budget Department,” Meridor said in a letter to Katz. “Unfortunately, you do not allow me and many other public servants in different departments in the Finance Ministry and in other ministries to do what we know how to do.”
Meridor is the second high-ranking Israeli financial official to resign in as many months, after Accountant GeneralRony Hizkiyahu decided to stepped down.
Israel has struggled to contain the spread of new Covid cases that started to spike in early July; the government is considering another lockdown for the upcoming Jewish Holidays. The Bank of Israelforecasts the economy will shrink between 4.5% and 7% in 2020.
In a statement, Katz returned Meridor’s accusation of acting out of “narrow political considerations.”
Meridor’s resignation “is the right and desirable move,” Katz said. “I intend to bring in a suitable and professional replacement as soon as possible to assist me and the government in advancing economic policy during this challenging period.”
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