Finance Ministry officials urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday not to increase the number of ministers in his fourth government, saying the move would cost millions of shekels.
The provisional government passed a bill proposal on Sunday allowing the expansion of the government to an unlimited number of ministers and deputy ministers, as well as the appointment of ministers without portfolios.
"A large number of government ministries leads to restriction on regulatory activity and in that, in certain cases, hurts economic activity," the Director of Budgets Department in the Finance Ministry, Amir Levi, wrote Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit.
The controversial move will be brought to a vote at the Knesset on Monday - a day before Netanyahu releases the final list of government ministers. For the proposal to pass, Netanyahu needs the support of all 61 members of the coalition.
The bill proposal claims that it will not affect the Israeli economy and that the proposal's budget is "irrelevant."
Meaning, despite the expected costs to the economy of spending tens of millions of shekels from state coffers on additional ministers, new offices, a large amount of support staff – the government is claiming that the bill is entirely irrelevant to the state budget.
Levi, however, stressed that the proposal's budget was indeed "irrelevant" only if the size of the government remains 18 ministers and four deputies.
"If there is a change in the number of ministers and deputy ministers beyond what is written in the law, the cost will be measured at NIS 2.8-3.9 million a year for each minister (NIS 11.2-16.6 million for a four-year term), and some NIS 1.5 million for each deputy minister (a total of NIS 6 million for a four-year term)," Levi wrote.
According to Levi, an issue more significant than the number of ministers is the large number of government ministries in Israel - 27 ministries in Israel, compared to 14 ministers in OECD states with an effective public sector.
"One of the reasons the multiplicity of ministries hurts the efficacy of the public sector is the fact that in a typical ministry, some 35 to 40 percent of the manpower is used for ministerial and general work, which does not necessarily increase the scope of services offered to citizens," Levi wrote.
The head of the Budgets Department in the Finance Ministry recommended that the number of government ministries is reduced in order to make government activity more effective.
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, who led the legislation to limit the number of government ministries to 18 and deputies to four, on Sunday slammed the government's decision to increase the number of ministries.
"The Israeli government made a disgraceful decision, I have no other words to describe it: Expanding the government, bringing back ministries without portfolios," Lapid said. "They're not expanding the government to 20 ministers as they're claiming, but to many more than that. They're taking funds meant for welfare, health, education and defense and spending it on political jobs for their friends."
Zionist Union MK Itzik Shmuly said Netanyahu "was continuing the liquidation sale of our national interests. After a surrender that included selling off equality in the national burden, hurting state education and expensive commitments to yeshivot and settlements, comes this disgraceful decision to expand the government."
"There is no concern for the people of Israel here, only concern for his cronies," Shmuly accused.