When Yair Lapid was given the post of Finance Minister a year and a half ago, it was a tribute to the electoral triumph which made his Yesh Atid party the country’s second biggest, and not to any expertise in financial matters.
In fact, Lapid had sought the Foreign Affairs portfolio, but Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had already promised it to Avigdor Lieberman, and so Lapid agreed to take on responsibilities for which he had never prepared. He would rely, he said, on the experts in the Finance Ministry and his ability as a quick study. Many were skeptical, but Lapid had the votes Netanyahu need to form a coalition, and that settled it.
However, on Tuesday, Lapid admitted that the country has paid a price for the deal.
“I was recently asked a legitimate question, that I apparently learned economics at the people’s expense in the past year. That is true, but I understand more about economics and I’ll know more in another year,” Lapid told the Israel Bar Association conference in Eilat on Tuesday, according to Globes.
Lapid further defended his costly learning curve, saying, “I am not an economist. A finance minister does not have to be an economist, but someone who knows priorities and who fights for the right priorities.”
Unabashed by his lack of knowledge, he noted his disagreement with Governor of the Bank of Israel Dr. Karnit Flug over the need to raise taxes to meet an expected NIS 18 billion budget shortfall. Lapid opposes a tax hike, and said that the budget deficit was structural, but that it was a matter of politics as much as economics.
“My world view says that…people want to know their disposable income won’t be harmed and that is the Ministry of Finance’s current worldview. It’s a different perspective from Flug’s, and it’s okay for the governor and I to think differently.”