"I come from a family with many children in Afula and I know how much each item costs"
Economy Minister Orna Barbiei knows that the cost of living rose during her shift, but is sure that the reforms she promoted, especially in the field of increasing competition, will still be reflected on the ground.
Until then, she prefers that we see what is happening in the world and realize how good our situation is
Thursday, August 18, 2022, 08:24 Updated: 13:02
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Orna Barbiei, Minister of Economy and Industry (photo: courtesy of those photographed, no)
In the week when the cost of living proved that it was here to stay, inflation broke a 14-year record and reached 5.2% and the increase in the price of apartments jumped to a record of 17.8% for the year, we met with the Minister of Economy and Industry, Orna Barbibai, whose office (among other things) is supposed to stand as a wall in front of The crazy price hikes and centralize the tools to encourage economic growth.
During her tenure it seemed, more than once, that Barbie was not present enough in putting pressure on the importers and retailers and in managing the crisis.
MKs such as Michael Biton, chairman of the economy committee, who called for a consumer revolt, summoned the senior officials of the food industry to the committee, called for buying cheap substitutes and fought her war, entered the vacuum left, or for example MK Efrat Raiten, chairman of the Knesset's welfare committee - while the minister in charge avoided seeking contact.
The writer of these lines was also among her fiercest critics, since it is unthinkable that the one who has most of the regulatory tools to lower the cost of living, including responsibility for the Competition Authority, the most significant enforcement arm in the field, would abandon the burning arena to the mercy of centralization and ignore the public eye.
On the other hand, Barbibay should be credited with the import reform that led and is supposed to bring real competition to the market, which will most likely be manifested and fully exploited only in a few years, and will be credited to one of the next economy ministers.
This, of course, on the condition that the discounts will be passed on to consumers and will not remain in the pockets of the importers.
During the signing of the trade agreement with the United Arab Emirates (Photo: Anuj Taylor Strap Studios)
"The biggest threat to the public is the cost of living"
She admits that she was busy with work and less with communicating herself to the outside world, which is why the impression may have been created that she was not there.
But now, in the spirit of Yesh Atid's election campaign, she lists achievements and details activities.
"Dear here" Barbie says what we all feel in our pockets.
"I come from Afula, from a family with many children. I see and know how much each item costs, how much it cost and what the Israeli government expects to do.
"When I entered the office, I did a survey and according to it the biggest threat to the public is the cost of living and the Iranian threat at the end of the list.
I looked at what actions can be taken.
For years there was the construction of barriers, the preservation of local industry at any cost and the establishment of mechanisms that would make competition more difficult in a structured way, some of them catastrophic.
"We deployed our annexes abroad and signed trade agreements, with the agreement with the Emirates being unprecedented.
We have already managed to forget, but during the Corona, with the cooperation of Prime Minister Bennett and Lapid, I insisted on keeping the businesses open and continuing to trade, while taking a calculated health risk.
We wanted to get the people out to work.
It is true that it took too long to compensate the business owners, but at dawn the lessons were learned."
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Above the pulpit in the Knesset.
I think she has done a lot, but regrets her short tenure (Photo: Danny Shem Tov)
"Four types of regulations"
The "Competition Authority" is the most effective tool for war in the most vital way.
Nine months have passed since the price coordination investigation was opened in the marketing chains, and nothing has happened.
Why does it take so long?
"The Competition Authority is an independent body and I have no desire and authority to interfere in its work. I need to make sure that the investigation concludes itself. I believe that a strong and fair authority will do its job."
Will there be hearings soon?
"The authority is independent and I have no influence on it."
The importers are attacked from all sides, but insist on raising prices.
They are not afraid of anyone, not even of you.
"Therefore, on the last day of the Knesset, we began the legislative process of the parallel import law, which will prevent franchise owners in the food and consumer products market from harming competing importers. The Competition Authority will be able to impose a fine of eight million shekels on those who violate the law. Unfortunately, the legislation has not been completed and I intend to continue it in the next Knesset .
"We are constantly taking care of lowering the cost of living and increasing disposable income, but at the same time we want to maintain food security and lower prices. Lowering the customs duty on cars is not enough and I told that to the Minister of Finance. Buying a car is a large and important expense for a family and if we manage to lower the prices of cars we will be able to the public".
But you will cause congestion on the roads, traffic jams and air pollution.
"It's all a matter of optimal balance, and currently it is possible to lower tariffs. Increasing disposable spending is part of our role and lowering fuel prices helps it, like the credit points we gave to parents of small children and the labor grant. The Ministry of Agriculture is also doing everything to lower prices."
and does not succeed.
The biggest price increase in the latest price index was in the fruit and vegetable section.
This is happening because "plant protection" in the Ministry of Agriculture is blocking the reform of the Minister of Agriculture.
You pass reforms and are unable to implement them
"If someone had told me that the Minister of Economy would regulate the reform of air conditioners for such a long time, together with the Minister of Finance and the Ministry of Environmental Quality, I would have thought he was talking nonsense. We wanted to import air conditioners with environmentally friendly gas, but with a certain risk. In order for this to happen, we need to qualify Installers of air conditioners, so we set out to train 200 technicians. How much energy do I invest in importing diapers. There is centralization and four types of regulations. The person in charge of standardization at my place, Igor, a dear guy, is at a loss as to what to do with it."
And what about importing fish and tuna?
The reform was passed four months ago and it is also stuck.
"The issue is at the Ministry of Finance in the aspect of lowering tariffs and I hope that it will move forward very soon."
More from the signing of the agreement with the Emirates.
"With India, high-tech companies can work easily, so why wouldn't they work with remote locations in Israel?" (Photo: Anuj Taylor Strap Studios)
Thanks to the parallel import
The import reform is Barbiebay's flagship project, with the Ministry of Finance, Environmental Protection and Health as its partners.
On the face of it, it should increase the variety of products on the shelf and the competition between importers, lead to a price reduction of at least 10% and it includes a change of hundreds of standards that applied to thousands of products in three tracks, according to their level of risk.
In contrast to the long and exhausting standardization procedure that was customary in the past, a new model has entered under which the importer will declare that the imported product complies with the conditions of an international standard and will not be required to be tested by the Standards Institute or a private standardization laboratory.
The reform, which was launched two and a half months ago, is expected to relieve burdens on customs and ports where huge quantities of goods accumulate until approval is obtained and will reduce the payments for storing goods in the ports by millions of shekels per year.
Barbiei says that while Bennett was Minister of the Economy, she asked to deal with the issue of parallel imports and prepared for the campaign with military tactics, as befits someone who held the rank of colonel in her position as the former head of Division KA.
There is a whole world of products whose international standard does not match the Israeli one.
"A year ago, at the meetings on the Settlements Law, when I saw that nothing was moving, I then told Nitzan (Horwitz. L.R.) give me the health powers regarding imports, because I understood that things could get stuck there and he said, you know what, it's worth thinking about. Nachman Ash then announced that there would be a problem with the perfumes. We put the professional body at the Ministry of Health on the line. I asked, how is it possible that I buy face cream abroad and use it in Israel without a problem, but when it arrives via import it is not good.
When we returned to the room I said that the event was not going well and I arranged with Nitzan that the toilet reform would begin this January.
"There is what I call 'cholesterol normalization,' a quiet normalization that requires us to go through item by item. I was told, it will take years. I set the date, June 2022, they told me, the commander, it's not realistic. In June, we were already in the middle of the reform, regulation, legislation First, the tax authority, institute, measuring systems, item by item. The importers need to get used to the concept of a declaration and the expectation is that they will pass on the discounts to the consumer."
How will you enforce it?
"That's exactly what the parallel import law is for, and until then, consumers should also keep their eyes open. Importers today have no competition, so they can do whatever they want. I invited them to me when the pasta became more expensive and said that I expect them not to raise the price until after Passover. When there will be real competition , it won't have to be in requests, with or without agreement. The presence of additional players on the field will open up the market and the competition authority will check if the rules are being followed."
"I also believe in fair competition and the Standards Institute is under my authority. A German institute has entered here, which recognizes the opportunity in our market. I have appointed the CEO of the firm, Ron Malka, to head a committee that will examine the granting of concessions to foreign marketing chains that will enter Israel.
Kosher and price marking are not simple challenges.
The local industry, which I am also responsible for, is already jumping in and saying, why do you give them concessions and not us, but the idea is to make it easier for the chains to lower prices.
"The Consumer Protection Authority conducted a study that shows that, even though it is more expensive, Israelis prefer to buy the brand. I am careful not to dribble the consumer's responsibility, but his awareness of smart consumerism is also part of the story."
You intend to close the "Consumer Council".
"A very serious auditor's report came out about her and the need for her needs to be examined in depth.
I am considering connecting the Consumer Council, the Consumer Protection Authority and strengthening associations from the third sector that deal in the field of consumerism.
I issued a tender for the construction of an application that will make consumer information accessible and compare prices at a cost of six million shekels, with the mediation to the consumer being done through the national digital system, which is under the Ministry of Economy.
Every month we publish a price comparison basket.
Rami Levy regularly appears in it as the cheapest retailer and Super Yehuda the most expensive."
Apparently Sel does not reach the marketing chains or does not really move them, because the prices only go up.
"The citizen is not interested in what happens abroad, where inflation is much higher than 5.2%, but we are on the same planet.
If we had not behaved properly, our situation would have been much worse.
Maybe I'm not communicating what I'm doing with the right resonance, but there is the governor who raises the interest rate to lower it.
But no matter how you look at it, the biggest thing is the housing problem.
When in the past 53,000 housing units were built in Peak, while today 79,000 housing units are being built."
And that's a drop in the ocean
"200,000 are missing to close the gap, but I'm not responsible for the housing."
What about the supervised bread?
"The bread will not be removed from supervision, but will move to another section, according to which the increase in price will be examined according to profitability.
Who like me knows the importance of bread in a low-income family, even though the consumption of uniform bread is only 10%, for pita bread and rolls you pay much more." Will the
nurseries become more expensive?
"I thought that they should also be transferred to the responsibility of the Ministry of Education, in terms of the development of skills, but we will make every effort to come to the request of the nannies to raise the price by NIS 500, since it has not increased since 2009. Maybe we will do it in a layout with limitations, because also It's hard for parents to bear the burden."
Periphery instead of India
declares the outline of the interns.
She also knows that not all of the government's plans in the economic field have gone well (Photo: Flash 90, Yonatan Zindel)
"We have been in power for less than a year and a half"
Barbie is not only responsible for economic issues in the area of prices and supervision.
The labor branch was also subordinated to the job, which raised some questions about the lack of workers, especially in the service industries.
You are also responsible for the work arm.
Employers are unable to find workers and the state does not seem to be encouraging people to return to work.
"There is no justification for giving an incentive to a person who is able to work. I need to encourage those who have barriers, Arab women and ultra-Orthodox men. The unemployment rate is low, there are 140,000 vacancies, which means that the economy is growing."
And yet the need for working hands is acute.
"We are engaged in bringing in expert foreign workers and Palestinian workers while maintaining their conditions and wages, hand in hand with the Ministry of Defense and doing professional training on an unprecedented scale, after we removed the training directorate from the treasury, we closed 'Magalim' and consolidated the process. We established the employers' directorate In this way we are trying to encompass the entire field, by the way, there is no reason that Tel Aviv will have better employment opportunities than the periphery in an era of remote work. I did a remote work project with Tal Ohana, the mayor of Yeruhem, who rightly said that high-tech companies can easily work with India, so Why won't they work with remote places in Israel?"
With all the hard work and good will, the facts speak for themselves: in your term, the cost of living has only gone up.
"We have been in power for less than a year and a half, we have only just started the work and we are seeing the change. If this government continues to work even after the elections, we will tell the public - the situation is not good, but it could have been much worse if we did not do the necessary activity. Look at the world as a reference and let us continue working."
Will you stay in the Ministry of Economy?
"I would be happy for any executive position that would allow me to do well with the government and the great public. My first ambition is government stability."
Ministry of Economy
Cost of living