Former Finance Minister and current Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz can say what he wants about biannual budgets, but he cannot say it makes government more stable, said current Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon Thursday night. Kahlon has long opposed the biannual budget idea, and in a meeting with members of his Kulanu faction Thursday, Kahlon said that “anyone who thinks that a biannual budget is a guarantee of political stability is wrong.”
Speaking before 1,200 members of the party, Kahlon said that the government was so unstable, in fact, that “we for two months already have not brought problematic bills to a vote because the government cannot guarantee a majority for them. There are MKs from the Likud who don’t even bother to show up for votes anymore. We are the most stable element in this coalition,” said Kahlon.
With the Knesset breaking up this weekend for its Pesach break, the struggle of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to enact a biannual budget has been put on hold till after the holiday. Netanyahu is determined to push through a biannual budget, said Netanyahu loyalist Steinitz. In an op-ed in the The Wall Street Journal, Steinitz wrote that “as a former finance minister of Israel, I can testify to the significant resources and manpower that the budgeting process requires across all government agencies. When these efforts drag on through at least half the year, every year, civil servants have less time to do their actual jobs. Worse, when everyone is stuck running on the budget treadmill year after year, there is little space left over for long-term strategic planning.
“Short budget cycles could weaken the development of the economy, too. Annual budgeting introduces uncertainty and undermines stability simply too often. Investors putting money into the real economy — industry, infrastructure, energy, tourism, research and development — surely react accordingly,” he wrote.
Not quite, said Kahlon; a biannual budget is often “broken” as new problems come up that need funding, and in the end, the need to rejigger an existing budget may be more difficult than authoring a new one, he added.