This is the second essay in a multi-part series of blogs regarding what the Yesh Atid party has accomplished for Israel during its year and eight month tenure in office
Thanks to Yesh Atid, the next government cannot have more than 18 ministers and 4 deputy ministers, the concept of “Minister without Portfolio” has been abolished, and further steps have been taken to combat government corruption.
Throughout the 2013 election campaign, candidates for the Yesh Atid party repeated a significant statistic – the government at that time had reached 39 ministers and deputy ministers with the job conditions of ministers. This meant a huge waste of taxpayer money and increased bureaucracy. We pointed out that other much larger countries throughout the world had under 20 ministers and that Israel’s bloated government not only wasted money but was inherently corrupt since the positions were created simply to lure parties into the coalition or for Prime Ministers to repay supporters within their own parties. The height of corruption was the list of “Ministers without Portfolio” who were given a nice office, a luxurious car, a driver, a large staff, and a seat at the government table. All they lacked was a job to do with actual responsibilities. We promised to reduce the size of the government and to eliminate the position of “Minister without Portfolio.”
The Knesset passed this legislation in March 2014. The next government cannot have more than 18 ministers and 4 deputy ministers and we banned “Ministers without Portfolio.” We fulfilled our promise.
We actually went beyond simply fulfilling our campaign promises and continued reforming government ministries and agencies which have become places for corruption and political payback.
Over the last few decades, some government ministries have regressed into an environment in which politicians pay back those who supported them in the elections. New, unnecessary positions have been added throughout the years at the expense of taxpayers. Ministers have been appointing friends and supporters to serve as directors of government companies. And these government companies have functioned with zero transparency making these positions even more attractive for the ultimate political payback.
In his role as Finance Minister, MK Yair Lapid changed the rules regarding the process for choosing directors for these government companies. The general public was invited to submit applications to serve as directors and a non-political committee was appointed to choose the most deserving candidates for these positions.
The issue of growing government offices and the lack of transparency in government companies was set to be addressed in the 2015 budget which the Finance Minister sent to the Knesset. The budget included a plan to require the Government Companies Authority to issue small portions of stock in a large number of state-owned firms on the stock market. Companies on the stock exchange must produce financial reports every three months. This would have created transparency for the first time regarding these government companies.
Another proposed reform, included in the proposed budget, was a freeze on new recruitment to prevent the expansion of government ministries simply for political payback. This was a classic example of new politics challenging the corruption of old politics. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister halted these last two important reforms when he called for new elections instead of passing the budget.
We are very proud that in the short time span of just one year and eight months we have fulfilled our campaign promise of requiring a smaller, more efficient and less corrupt government. We look forward to waking up on March 18 after the elections and getting right back to work on these and many other crucial issues facing Israel today while also looking ahead towards its future.