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Episode 2: Yaron Zelekha, Guardian of the National Purse

The second episode of Magash Hakesef features Yaron Zelekha, Israel’s former Accountant-General, and a former economic adviser to Prime Minister Netanyahu. In the episode, Zelekha looks at how a lack of competition is driving up prices, how government policies meant to improve the lives of Israelis in the periphery have instead lined the pockets of Israel’s 1%, and the impact of corruption on Israel’s economy.

Some questions for you to consider:

  • A number of high profile Israeli politicians have been found guilty of corruption, bribery, and misusing funds, including former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Despite these attempts to rein in corruption, Israel continues to slide compared to other countries worldwide. What could Israel be doing to stop this worrying downward trend?
  • 40 years ago Israel and Sweden were the most equitable states in the Western world. Today Israel has one of the highest poverty rates in the Western world. One in three Israeli children live below the poverty line. Which groups of children do you think are most represented in this number? How do you think this will impact Israeli society in the future?
  • In this episode we learn that Ultra-Orthodox and Arab participation in the workforce increased over the last decade. What else can be done to bring in these two marginalised sectors and integrate them more deeply into Israeli society?
  • Do you think a country’s natural resources belong to the people or to the companies that develop them? Under Israel’s gas agreement royalties are amongst the lowest in the world at only 12.5%. A few years ago Australia repealed its Mineral Resource Rent Tax, resulting in significantly lower mining taxes. The loss of millions of dollars in tax income means both countries have less resources to provide social services. Where would you invest this “lost income”, education, healthcare, housing, disability services, age pension, etc. Why are these large companies able to exert so much influence over the political system?