Corona plague Revealed the weaknesses of the structure of local government in Israel. On the one hand “red” local authorities, which have difficulty coping with the plague, and on the other hand a central government that holds all the powers in its hands, but finds it difficult to act due to political and other constraints. These weaknesses are also described in an extensive report on the State of Israel, published last month by the Organization of Developed Countries (OECD). According to the report, structural problems in the structure of government and the distribution of revenues have led to growing gaps between rich and poor local authorities, between the center and the periphery and between authorities with an ultra-Orthodox and Arab population and authorities with a “general” population.
Against this background, the American Research Institute publishes a position paper, which proposes to establish a new interim governmental layer in Israel: 10-15 regional super-authorities. The regional super authority will be composed of representatives of the local authorities in its territory, who will cooperate among themselves in areas such as education, welfare, health and infrastructure.
The basic idea is that such a division will ensure that gaps are reduced and resources are directed according to needs. A regional council, for example, which has few residents but a lot of income from business property taxes, can help its neighbor – a dense urban locality that has multiple social needs. What comes out of all this to the regional council you ask? Advantage of size thanks to joining neighbors, additional budgets from central government.
First study on the subject of Israeli interiors
The position paper of the Rand Institute was written by an Israeli-American team, led by Amir Levy and Tal Wolfson. The work that began in 2018 was attended by former budget commissioner Amir Levy (who was then in the cooling-off year), and Israeli and American researchers. This is one of the first projects of the prestigious research institute on an internal Israeli subject, and it was done thanks to the Israel Studies program that was launched at the institute recently.
In a conversation with “Globes”, the authors of the study note that the public discourse in Israel deals almost exclusively with the functioning of the government, its policies and, moreover, its failures. In practice, the role played by local government in civilian life is far more significant than its public and media involvement. For example in the education budget or in the field of welfare services, the local authority is the dominant player and the main address.
However, according to Rand’s position paper, the Israeli authorities suffer from structural weaknesses. “Israel was built crooked,” one of the study’s authors told Globes, “You have strong cities in the center. There are regional councils in the periphery, formed in the days of Mapai, and you see that authorities in clusters 7-10 receive income three times higher than authorities in clusters 1-3. . This gap is growing from year to year and from generation to generation. “
The problem is already known: the distorted property tax structure generates very low revenues for authorities that do not have the presence of industry offices or hotels. This problematic model perpetuates itself because large businesses avoid reaching out to poor authorities, which have no developed infrastructure and developed industrial areas.
Another problem is the small size of the authorities in the area and the residents. The average authority in Israel has only 43,200 residents and the average Arab authority only 14,400. There are no less than 425 local authorities throughout Israel.
“Great significance for size and location”
“If you can bring business property taxes, it matters a lot. A regional council, like Ramat Negev, has revenues of NIS 6,000 per resident, compared to Dimona with NIS 1,000 and Ofakim with NIS 700.” So Khura can not establish a science school because it is small and weak. And Dimona does not. But if you have both Be’er Sheva and Ramat Negev in one district – suddenly you have the resources to establish a science school. Suddenly the Bedouin and the residents of the city “Beer Sheva and the members of the kibbutzim of Ramat Negev come together to the government. It is no longer the demands of the Bedouin from the government, these are the demands of the south from the government.”
In addition to the South, Brand recommends establishing super-authorities in other areas. Modi’in, for example, with Modi’in Elite Haredi and surrounding localities, or Jerusalem and its satellite localities.
An example of an area where the current structure of local government is hindering development is transportation. The promotion of the statutory network of the light rail network in the Dan Bloc took 26 years. The main reason for this, according to the paper’s authors, is the split of the program across different municipalities and authorities.
“It will be possible to promote programs like the metro at a much greater speed, when instead of coordinating each meeting between 14 city engineers, there will be one regional authority with one engineer and the chairman of the district tender committee. We are talking about the fact that the Southern District Planning Committee, which is today the Ministry of the Interior, is becoming a committee of the supra-regional authority. This authority is the transportation authority and it manages the welfare, it dissolves the authorities according to the property tax model that will be agreed between them and it allocates some of the resources of Ramat Negev to Dimona and Rahat. “
It is clear to the authors of Rand’s position paper that the implementation of their proposal will require a strong political backing, which will know how to promote a move that will be interpreted as infringing on the powers of the central government and to some extent at the expense of powerful authorities.
In this context, the researchers note that the basic idea was previously presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as part of the Finance Ministry’s proposals for reforms – and he expressed support in principle for the idea. In the current political reality, Rand investigators are pinning their hopes on Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, but admit that the initiative will not come to fruition without the blessing of Netanyahu and Deputy Prime Minister Bnei Gantz and the close cooperation of Finance Minister Israel Katz.
The gaps between local authorities
“The gaps between municipalities and local authorities in Israel are among the largest among developed countries, and are expected to widen even further as a result of the corona plague that severely affects ultra-Orthodox localities.” The OECD has chosen to devote an extensive chapter to local government in the detailed report it publishes once every two years on the State of Israel.
Despite being one of the smallest countries among the developed countries in the world, Israel is characterized by significant socio-economic gaps that have a clear expression in space. Ethnic and religious groups in the periphery do not enjoy the flourishing of high-tech in the center. The result is a paucity of employment opportunities in the periphery alongside a shortage of skilled manpower in the center.
The organization points out that under the government there is only one level of government in Israel, the local government, which consists of 257 local authorities (municipalities, regional councils, local councils, etc.). “The average monthly wage in the richest authority is almost four times higher than the wage in the poorest authority – this is one of the largest gaps in developed countries. This means that not all regions in Israel benefited from the growth that led to the crisis,” the report said.
What is even more worrying about the gap itself is the trend: according to a comparative analysis conducted by OECD researchers, the income gap between the top and bottom deciles of local authorities in Israel increased between 2006 and 2016 by more than 5% per year on average – the fastest rate, they said. Among the developed countries.
In the bottom line, the authors of the report point out that the gaps harm equal opportunities in Israeli society, which harms the chances of children who grew up in socio-economically weak areas to reach higher wage jobs.
“Israel desperately needs inclusive economic growth to create equal opportunities for every child no matter where he is born. Since inequality in Israel is multidimensional, it is necessary for a policy that crosses the governmental level and brings about the strengths of the periphery.” At the government level, the report offers an improvement in public transportation services throughout the country, affordable housing and quality urban planning, and ensuring the possibility of quality education in each local authority.
OECD recommendations for structural changes for local government reform are in a number of areas. First, the organization recommends changes in the structure of property taxes in a way that will eliminate the priority that there is today for business property taxes. “The non-residential property tax rate should be reduced and the residential property tax rate should be raised through a tax system based on economic value.” Other recommendations included in the report are promoting the registration of properties in Arab authorities, expanding affordable housing options for the center as well, and improving the quality of the education system in the periphery.
“A regional model is the days of Messiah “
The local successes of Tal Ohana of Yeruham, of heads of local authorities in Arab society and of others in the fight against corona outbreaks in their localities, fill Sigal Moran with pride. Moran, who headed the Bnei Shimon Regional Council from 2009 to 2018, is convinced that much more could have been done if there was a regional model in Israel today, of a super authority that centralizes the resources of several local authorities together.
“Imagine there was a regional organization today to fight the corona,” she says in a conversation with Globes, “instead of each local authority dealing with the corona in its scarce resources, there was a regional organization of several authorities, red-green and yellow together, coordinating resources. “An array of epidemiological investigations, or to offer employment solutions to the unemployed at a completely different level than what a single local authority can do.”
Eight years ago, Moran led the Bnei Shimon Council, which she headed, to join one of the first five clusters of localities in the periphery, north and south. The idea was born, she said, as a lesson from the failed attempt to unite authorities. “The main lesson was that any organization of several authorities must be on a voluntary basis,” says Moran. For less authority. “
What started as a common set-up for garbage removal later expanded to other areas, such as veterinary medicine. For Rahat, for example, the cluster has led to a huge improvement in the standard of living in terms of veterinary garbage removal – services that were almost non-existent in the authority before. Today, the authority has nine authorities, which together number about 200,000 residents, including two Bedouin authorities.
The number of clusters across the country is already 11. The main process was to build trust between the authorities, says Moran. “We have expanded to employment for the elderly for education and welfare. This pooling of resources by some authorities is able to offer solutions at a different level to issues such as special education on the one hand or gifted education on the other. Government ministries also understood the benefits of this model. For clusters. “
Moran, now CEO of Branco-Weiss, says she “strongly believes in the perception of regionalism from every aspect. You raise to the regional level all the issues that have a size advantage. Imagine there was a regional organization today to fight Corona. A regional organization could carry out the epidemiological investigations, the employment solutions for the unemployed. “
Moran calls the regional model in the style of the Rand proposal “the days of Messiah.” “The big vision is to take this model one step further and strengthen the regionalism, while changing the governmental model in Israel. If the government lowers powers to the region, then the days of Messiah will really come. “The region will take responsibility for planning. It can develop into a regional concept of creating a regional common economy of joint development of regional employment centers – one can fly with it very far.”
How realistic is this?
“The Ministry of the Interior is leading this and I must say that the minister (Aryeh Deri) also has a vision. He understands that there will be no unification of authorities, but he thinks that this move can ultimately give us much more. Trying to stick the label of “Haredi takeover.” Nonsense. This is a net professional move. ”
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