Election economics revisited – Israel, December 2020
Unless there is a last minute compromise – which could only look pathetic and ugly in the eyes of the public – Israel is spluttering, repugnantly and embarrassingly – to its fourth general election in 24 months. To illustrate how paralysed the decision-makers appear, current estimates do not assume a poll could be organised for at least 45 days, and possibly not until mid May!
It gets worse.
Sure, you are probably wondering, should not politicians be thinking about protecting people from corona rather protecting their own pensions? Yes, some public health officials have declared that the ‘third wave’ is already with us. There again, whatever his reasons, Prime Minister Netanyahu will not be summoning the corona cabinet to meet this week. Is he too busy with other matters?
As for the economy, I cannot be optimistic. No budget was passed for 2020. No budget for 2021 can be approved before February next year, and that in the most hopeful of scenarios. Amazingly, the Treasury, which has been weakened by the departure of senior staff, has predicted 5% growth for the year ahead.
Sounds impressive? That estimate reeks of ‘election economics’. Maybe the OECD has a more realistic term of reference. It believes that it will not be until 2022 that the economy will return to ‘normal‘.
The Bank of Israel has noted that the economy will have contracted by around 4.5% this year. Under the best of circumstances, unemployment will not be less than 8% by the end of 2021. (The current figure is about 20%, as furlough assistance actually encourages many to stay at home!). And government financial incentives are still determined by bureaucrats, which will keep the potential beneficiaries in long-term debt.
The key politicians in the spheres of health and economics are members of the Prime Minister’s Likud Party, which he totally controls. You do not see too many of these apparatchiks, walking around the streets of the main cities, being photographed outside the rows of shops that have shuttered up (or down).
To date, the electorate is repeatedly told by the PM that we are in a better position than other countries. Maybe encouraging, but hardly helpful when looking to pay your basic bills.
As we approach 2021, I do not find the current leadership of the country one that I can identify with, especially when it comes to core issues such as looking after my family’s health and finances.