Log in
Forgot password ?
Become a member for free
Sign up
Sign up
New member
Sign up for FREE
New customer
Discover our services
Dynamic quotes 
News: Latest News
Latest NewsCompaniesMarketsEconomy & ForexCommoditiesInterest RatesBusiness LeadersFinance Pro.CalendarSectors 
All NewsEconomyCurrencies & ForexEconomic EventsCryptocurrenciesCybersecurityPress Releases

Election turmoil plunges Israel into budget crisis

11/21/2019 | 08:32am EDT

With the prospect of a third election in Israel in less than a year, it will be well into 2020 before a new budget is passed, triggering months of cutbacks that will weigh on economic growth.

The Israeli economy has so far weathered two inconclusive ballots and a year of successive caretaker governments that were restricted from making any big decisions, from tax reforms to court appointments.

But it cannot escape the impact of no budget. Government ministries will automatically revert to their 2019 monthly allocations without an increase, making it harder to commission new roads, pay contractors and cover a growing deficit.

"Coping with it will not only affect government offices, but also the entire economy," the accountant general told a concerned parliamentary finance committee this week.

He offered the gloomy outlook as it became clear that neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor his rival, Benny Gantz, had enough support in parliament to form a government.

With both politicians coming up short, there now begins a 21-day period in which Israeli lawmakers can nominate any one of the Knesset's 120 lawmakers to try and establish a coalition.

If that fails too, an election is triggered within 90 days, raising the prospect for a weary electorate of going back to the polls after votes in April and September.

"There is absolute chaos in all the government ministries. That's what happens when you don't have a budget. And if they really do announce elections - it becomes a nightmare," said Amir Fuchs, a legal expert at the Israel Democracy Institute.

Defence contractors are already seeing government payments being frozen, according to an industry source. New road and rail projects, critical to ease traffic congestion, are expected to be put on hold.

"Purchases by ministries will all slow and some will even come to a halt," said Jonathan Katz, Leader Capital Markets' chief economist.


Uncertainty aside, the shekel remains one of the strongest currencies in the world and economic growth was a robust 4.1% in the third quarter, initial estimates showed this week. But risks have grown over the past year.

Israel's budget deficit is projected to swell to close to 4% in 2019 from 2.9% in 2018, and new taxes and spending cuts are needed to rein it in before it impacts the country's credit rating.

Government officials promised to boost investments in public transport and competition in the workforce to keep steam in the economy, but most plans have come to a standstill.

"The main issue is that of lost opportunities. More specifically, the opportunity to make much needed structural changes in the economy," said Bank Leumi chief economist Gil Bufman.

The OECD on Thursday cut its economic growth forecast for Israel to 2.9% in 2020, from a previous estimate of 3.3%, and forecast a similar rate in 2021.

It blamed the global slowdown, but also noted that "intensifying structural reforms...is crucial to lower the large social disparities and boost productivity".

The OECD also called for tax reform to increase revenue, something impossible without a government in place.

The Bank of Israel is expected to cut its key interest rate next week for the first time since 2015, with most economists polled by Reuters citing the global slowdown and an over-appreciation in the shekel.

By Ari Rabinovitch and Tova Cohen

ę Reuters 2019
Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
BANK LEUMI LE- ISRAEL B.M. 2.30% 2536 Delayed Quote.30.85%
MIRAINOVATE CO., LTD. -3.57% 27 End-of-day quote.-10.00%
US DOLLAR / ISRAELI NEW SHEKEL (USD/ILS) -0.30% 3.2157 Delayed Quote.0.35%
Latest news "Economy & Forex"
04:38aSun-seekers enjoy European summer 'workcation' before office return
04:33aHalf full or half empty? Heineken doubles profit, warns on costs
04:30aUK factories lose a bit more pace in July, prices rising-PMI
04:30aEUROPE : European shares climb higher; oil hit by China demand concerns
04:24aEuropean shares climb higher; oil hit by China demand concerns
04:21aIndia's monsoon rains forecast to be average in August, September
04:18aGerman factories humming, supply shortages constrain growth - PMI
04:10aIntesa sanpaolo - finalises Ç250 million circular loan to iberdrola
04:07aHuawei, zte, datang mobile are the other winners, according to a document
04:06aEricsson wins 3% share in china telecom and china unicom joint 5g project tender, nokia misses out - sources
Latest news "Economy & Forex"