Small Businesses to Gov’t: Stay Out of Our Way

Looking over tomatoes at the Machaneh Yehudah market in Yerushalayim. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

No fewer than 95 percent of business owners believe that the government does nothing to help them — and most believe that government policies actually harm businesses. The data comes from a poll of more than 50,000 members of the Israel Small Business Association, mostly small-business owners, a report in Yisrael Hayom said.

Issues that slow productivity include complicated reporting requirements to tax agencies, the large number of forms and processes required to get a business license, and inefficiencies caused by excessive regulations. Laws that are supposed to benefit employees turn out to involve excessive bureaucratic rules, business owners said; for example, the Pensions Law, which requires all employers to provide a funded pension plan for full-time employees, is “a media-oriented production which does nothing to protect workers but increases the burden on employers,” 86 percent of employers said.

More than 70 percent of employers said that they had or will in the future fire employees because of the burdensome costs imposed by the bureaucracy, while 68 percent blamed a lack of growth on excessive regulations, which prevent them from reaching out to new markets. Ninety-seven percent said that if they had a choice, they would not remain in business for themselves, but would rather go work for someone else.

Dilka Aboutbul, chairperson of the Small Business Association, said that the poll “is groundbreaking, in that it shows the soft underbelly of the business sector. The poll’s results require immediate and in-depth action. Only a strong association of independent business people can lead the charge among lawmakers to change the situation.”

Earlier in December, the government approved rules that institute a streamlining of licensing and approval requirements that had caused delays of up to a year and a half in the issuance of licenses to businesses. The new procedures for a business license will assume that a request for a license is approved within 21 days. If a local authority or government agency has an objection, they will have to respond within that time, and if they do not, the business can assume it has been approved to operate.

Several kinds of businesses that require greater degrees of regulation or environmental operating licenses may have to wait a bit longer — but not more than an additional 45 days. If the agency does not respond by then or deny the license, the applicant will be able to sue, citing the Basic Law on freedom of commerce. On the other hand, a whole host of businesses that do not require such regulations — such as hairdressers, snack stands and other small businesses — will be exempt from any licensing requirements.

In addition, applicants will be able to use a single online form to request a license and get approval from all agencies and authorities, including police, fire and environmental agencies. In the past, applicants had to apply for permits from each of these agencies. And, instead of requiring businesses to renew licenses annually, businesses will now get licenses that will extend between 5 and 15 years, depending on regulation requirements.