Upcoming budget, including national debt payments, will total NIS 470 billion; education, transportation to receive increases; prime minister could still instruct Treasury to increase the defense budget in light of new threats facing the country.
The 2019 defense budget will not be increased, despite Defense Avigdor Lieberman’s insistence to receive an additional NIS 4.5 billion, as the Treasury is unwilling to budge on the previously agreed-upon five-year defense budget.
That said, the prime minister could still instruct the Treasury to increase the defense budget owing to the many threats facing the country, especially the Iranian presence on the Syrian border. In that case, cuts will have to be made to other departments’ budgets. As of now, no such request was made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
This Thursday, the government is expected to pass additional budget increases for various departments including education, transportation as well as for a new special budget reserve that will be included in the Finance Ministry’s budget.
Generally, annual budgets are brought before the government during the months of July-August prior to the relevant year. The advance budget session was requested by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.
The reason for the early budget session is the concern that the 2019 election season, or early elections in 2018, may disrupt passing an annual budget for 2019 resulting in extensive tedious monthly budgets.
“It is preferable to approve an annual budget early, than to harm the economy by only approving 12 monthly budgets,” said a senior source at the Finance Ministry.
The upcoming budget, including national debt payments, will be NIS 470 billion. The debt payments are a result of a surplus in tax collection last year and will save the state NIS 1.5 billion which will distributed among various governmental departments for miscellaneous use.
Some NIS 3.5 billion of the 2019 budget is to be allocated for building roads and railroad tracks throughout the country. There will be an emphasis on expanding the network of public transit lanes.
“Never before has so much been invested in (improving) public transportation, and the amount will increase next year too,” said a source involved in preparing the budget.
The education budget will also be increased by NIS 3 billion. Most will go towards building hundreds of new classrooms.
The present budget will include a new clause: For the first time, every governmental department will include a budget reserve fund. The reasoning is that the budget is being planned so far ahead making it difficult to determine each department’s actual needs.
However, drawing from the budget reserve will be permitted only with the authorization of the head of the Finance Ministry’s budget director. The total reserve for all departments will total NIS 1.5 billion.
Alongside the state budget, the government, and subsequently the Knesset, will review dozens of new reforms included in the Arrangements Act, which are submitted as an appendix to the budget books.