Economic Activity – December 2017


Updated for December 2017

Economic Activity: Update on Acts and Achievements in Recent Months

A significant achievement in the struggle against debt settlements (“Haircuts”): Cancelling the billions worth haircut planned by tycoon Eliezer Fishman!

Owing about ILS 4 billion, Fishman tried to be granted a haircut that – according to publications – would have comprised 76% of the debt! We acted regarding all relevant factors including the Attorney General of Israel, the Supervisor of Banks, and the banks as such, and commenced a broad public struggle that was joined by thousands of citizens and also reached Knesset discussions. The efforts indeed gained success and the haircut was cancelled, however we have continued the struggle for applying an intensive investigation of the whole affair. Following our contact, the Supervisor of Banks announced she would consent to an investigation of the issue; in addition, we strive for establishing a parliamentary committee that will examine the issue and will be granted real authorities regarding the following issues: summoning witnesses for obligatory testimony; obligating witnesses to sign truth-telling depositions; obligating banks to provide the committee with documents and data that are critical to the investigation; applying fines. In order to learn for future events, and beyond the Fishman affair, the committee should also investigate the conduct of banks and regulators concerning big borrowers.

An end to the arrangement by which, for decades now, the State has been granting public money to a bunch of a lucky few

Disguised attractively as “Supporting the Farmers”, a highly bizarre arrangement has been hiding for decades: Each year the State allocates millions of ILS to people included in a list, formulated 20 years ago, of chicken-growers. Since then, many of them have ceased dealing with agriculture, while some bequeathed this bonus or even sold it! So it turns out, that a group of people not necessarily connected to agriculture receives big public money while genuine farmers keep collapsing. We have formulated a detailed and professional position paper that together with our intensive activity aimed at KMs and our broad public struggle, gained success: this absurd arrangement will be stopped.

Dismantle the Plant Production and Marketing Board

It has been for years now that the Movement calls to close archaic, redundant production boards that have become burdensome for both farmers and consumers. While farmers hardly survive because of ridiculous prices they get for their products and customers are forced to pay exorbitant prices for the very same products, obviously some factors in-between cut coupons at the expense of us all. A few months ago we were happy to be informed that in the Ministry of Agriculture a decision was made to close the Plant Production and Marketing Board. Eventually, this decision had been withdrawn and replaced by just reducing the Board’s activity. The Movement submitted to the KMs a detailed position paper calling for the dismantling of the Plant Production and Marketing Board, outlining the method for doing so and suggesting a lot of plans for improving the state of agriculture in Israel.

We have petitioned for exposing whether ICL owned by Ofer brothers have breached conditions: why is the report kept hidden?

At Israel Chemicals Ltd., the State holds a “golden share” in order to secure essential public and State interests while making use of nature resources which are the public’s by definition. Due to suspicions of ICL’s breach of conditions, the Movement demanded from the court to order the Ministry of Finance to expose all of the relevant information concerning ICL as well as other companies in which the state holds such golden shares. Later on we submitted another petition for exposing protocols of all related discussions carried out in the Ministry of Finance. In addition, the Movement’s representatives joined such Knesset discussions in order to present the Movement’s stance.

A struggle: another pipeline from Tamar gas field is crucial to the State economy!

The government should serve the public interest and not that of Yitzhak Tshuva & Co.! Following a technical fault in the field’s treatment barge in September 2017, the supply of natural gas from Tamar was stopped. Practically the only significant natural gas source for Israel, Tamar field serves in producing more than 50% of the state’s electric power. The fault was no less than a crisis in the Israeli gas sector: the Minister of Energy declared a state of emergency, an urgent search commenced in order to find alternative energy sources and to prioritize the economic factors that will benefit of them. The meaning of this event is dramatic due to a probable sharp increase in electricity prices that will affect the whole of the Israeli population. In addition, being polluting fuels of various kinds, energetic substitutes are harmful to environment and health. However, the emergency state did not surprise those of the professional factors that used to warn of such an event – just as we at the Movement did – already in the gas outline discussions. Still, there is only one gas pipeline while the interests behind this fact remain unclear. We have contacted the Minister of Energy and this ministry’s CEO concerning the issue; we have also commenced a comprehensive public struggle to which tens of thousands of citizens have been exposed.

An appeal of joining the petition against conflict of interests in the Israeli Honey Board

The Movement appealed to the court to be granted the status of “Friend of Court” in order to join a petition concerning conflict of interests in the Israeli Honey Board. IHB supervises the honey market in spite of being practically a private organization and in spite of its representing mainly the big honey producers who are supposed to be supervised by it. According to the petition, this situation constitutes conflict of interests. The Movement also takes part in relevant Knesset discussions and have submitted a detailed position paper to the KMs.

Will the electricity market open to competition at last? The Movement appealed for joining a relevant petition as “Friend of the Court”    

This is a time of a historical decision of whether the electric market will open to competition or remains a monopoly, the issue having direct influence on the public’s electricity bills. For over 20 years now the State has been attempting to implement a reform that will open the electric market to competition (the Electric Reform Law had been legislated already in 1996) but with no success – due to the objection of IEC workers union and the Histadrut. There is no doubt as for the union’s right of claim and of protecting the workers, but it is unthinkable that IEC’s workers union will be the factor that determines the nature of the Israeli electric market, surly not when the Israeli public pays for it. The Movement wishes to join the legal procedure between the State and the workers union in order to voice the public interest and to present the High Court of Justice with a different point of view according to which the State is giving up its authorities of governing and executing. Hence, for the sake of enhancing true competition in the electric market, it is only right for the State to be active about protecting the public interest and preferring it to IEC’s interest of preserving its monopolistic status. The Movement also commenced a relevant public struggle that was joined by thousands of citizens within just a few days.