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Citizen sues gov't to amend 2002 budget proposal

Elad Man says court can intervene as draft budget is based on wrong, incomplete data of 4% growth forecast

A citizen today asked the High Court of Justice to force amendment of the budget law for 2002, based on a GDP growth estimate of about 2% instead of 4%.

Citizen Elad Man, represented by advocate Itzhak Aviram, filed the petition to force the hand of Finance Minister Silvan Shalom, Finance Ministry director-general Ohad Marani and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the Knesset.

The treasury's budget proposal for 2002 is based on estimated GDP growth of 4%, with which nobody concurs. Most estimates range from 2% to 3% at most, as Man points out in his petition.

Man further claims that the Finance Ministry officials ¿ including the minister and director-general themselves, have not refuted his position, which is supported by Israel¿s top-ranking economists including the governor of the Bank of Israel.

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If anything, the minister and director-general seem to concur with his stand, Man claims. They seem to be aware that their budget proposal for 2002, compiled months ago, is misguided. Their failure to amend it is motivated by political factors, he alleges.

Amending the budget to a lower GDP growth target would have far-reaching implications for the Israeli economy. Among other things it would reduce permissible government spending by billions, Man states.

Worse, Man says, budgets cannot be amended in retrospect. Billions burned up are gone. The purpose of his petition is to nip the problem in the bud before its effects become irreversible.

He realizes that the courts do not customarily intervene in government budget deliberations, Man writes, but this time is different. He is not requesting intervention in the way the government sets economic policy, but in the way it is calculating the budget's size which is ¿ everyone agrees, even the treasury chiefs ¿ based on an excessive growth estimate.

The government should put together a new budget proposal that also complies with the law requiring the government to steadily reduce its deficit as a function of GDP, and that also provides Israel's parliamentarians with complete, correct factual information when voting on the budget. Sadly, that is not the case of the 2002 budget proposal as is, Man concludes.