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Treasury warns ‘millions’ needed for extra ministers

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 Itongadol.-The Finance Ministry warned Sunday that increasing the number of ministers will cost millions of shekels for each position added, a move Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to make in order to fulfill deals signed to woo coalition partners.

Finance Ministry budget director Amir Levi wrote in a letter to cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit that each additional minister will cost between NIS 2.8-NIS 3.9 million ($720,000 – $1 million) each year, and that each additional deputy minister would cost NIS 1.5 million ($390,000).
“Our position is that, in order to make government activities more efficient, the number of ministers should be reduced,” Levi wrote.
The letter came as the cabinet approved changes to the current law, which limits the number of ministers to 18. Netanyahu is initially seeking to appoint another two ministers — as well as four deputies — to the cabinet and may seek to add more ministerial posts at a later stage.
Levi noted that, following an internal review, the Finance Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office had come to the conclusion that even more significant than the increase in the number of ministers was the number of government ministries that Israel operates.
“The number of ministries in Israel stands at 27 compared to just 14 for OECD states that have an efficient civil service,” Levi wrote.
He went on to explain that a glut of ministries makes for an inefficient civil service, since in any given ministry an estimated 35-40 percent of the workers are engaged as general staff that don’t necessarily increase the scope of services to the public.
“A multiplicity of government agencies leads to increased regulatory activity and thus, in some cases, impacts economic activity,” continued Levi.
Cabinet ministers voted on the adjustment to the law during the last meeting of the outgoing cabinet, which is expected to be replaced Wednesday by a new one formed by Netanyahu after his Likud party reached coalition deals with four other parties.
The move must still be approved by the Knesset, which will first take up the measure on Monday. The vote will be the first test of Netanyahu’s razor-thin — 61-59 — majority in the Knesset.
The measure overturns a law limiting the number of ministers and deputy ministers, passed during the last Knesset after it was sponsored by Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid, who has since joined the opposition.
Lapid slammed the “shameful” move to increase the number of ministers on Sunday, and vowed to lead a protracted legal battle against it.
“The government of Israel made a decision today that I can only describe as shameful: to increase the size of the government and to bring back the ministers without portfolio,” he said in a statement.
“Every unnecessary minister creates hundreds of millions of shekels of activity around them — it can easily be checked in the previous budgets. We’ll fight it in the Knesset, we’ll fight it in the courts and we’ll fight it in the streets because it is a violation of the principles of democracy in which the government works for the people — not the people who create jobs for the government.
“We’ll create a parliamentary struggle that will go on for hours and days with every possible objection because it isn’t right, it isn’t just and it isn’t moral,” he added.
The move was also blasted by MK Eitan Cabel of the Zionist Union party, who said in a statement Sunday that Netanyahu was increasing the number of cabinet posts because he has a lot of “hungry mouths” to feed among his coalition partners.
Netanyahu is expected to hold consultations with Likud lawmakers over the next couple of days to determine the allotment of ministerial posts. A number of internal fights are expected within the party, with some dozen senior politicians squabbling for a handful of posts.

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