Chief statistician: Finance Ministry concealing data

Prof. Shlomo Yitzhaki: Few were aware of the estimated budget deficit, tax revenue shortfall.

Central Bureau of Statistics chief statistician Prof. Shlomo Yitzhaki accused Ministry of Finance officials of concealing data and failure to provide essential information on the economy, the budget deficit, and government tax revenues.

Yitzhaki said that only a few people were aware of the estimated budget deficit and tax revenue shortfall. He added that the figures were leaked from time to time for public relations purposes, not as a regular supply of reliable information to the public.

Yitzhaki pointed out that both experts and important concerns were being deprived of this information, including the makers of important economic decisions.

On the occasion of the publication of the Statistical Abstract of Israel 2003, Yitzhaki, a member of the Ben-Bassat tax reform committee, attacked the Ministry of Finance professional level with unprecedented ferocity.

”The problem is neither a single individual, nor the politicians. It concerns the Ministry of Finance professional levels. The politicians aren’t stopping the flow of information. The Ministry of Finance has been engaging in public relations since the 1970s.

”I don’t want to emasculate the Ministry of Finance or criticize legitimate actions that are part of its job. It’s time, however, to distinguish between propaganda and providing information to the public. The public, particularly decision-makers, must be supplied with complete, accurate information about the economic situation, and how economy policy is formulated,” Yitzhaki said.

Yitzhaki pointed out that all the figures were on the Ministry of Finance computers, but for reasons best know to the ministry, the reports on the budget deficit and forecast tax revenues were not transparent.

Yitzhaki rebuffed rumors of political pressure to “prettify the numbers”, or to cook the figures, and said that the Central Bureau of Statistics reports were accurate.

”No one from either the Prime Minister’s Office or the Ministry of Finance has pressured me to change either the picture or the figures. My superiors have backed me up completely. I have no complaints about the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister's Office director general, or the Ministry of Finance director general. They have all given me the support I need,” Yitzhaki declared.

Yitzhaki directed most of his criticism against the Income Tax Commissioners. His comments indicated that the Income Tax Commissioners appointed in recent years lacked an understanding of taxation.

Yitzhaki also stressed Israel’s current need for statistics, saying that a democratic country could not function without them.

Published by Globes [online] - www.globes.co.il - on September 23, 2003

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