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Monday, July 18, 2011

The ta'iti/ta'inu syndrome

One of the things that takes getting used to in this country is something I refer to as the 'ta'iti' or 'ta'inu' syndrome. (I made a mistake/We made a mistake). In the civilized country of my birth, if a government agency, utility, or even department store, made a mistake in figuring out your bill, they would never come back and ask to be repaid. Once you paid your bill, you were done. Here in the Jewish state, that's not the case. Everyone is entitled to make a mistake except you.

For example, about two years ago, the National Insurance Institute sent us a letter saying that they had accidentally overpaid our benefits for the birth of our youngest child, who was five years old at the time. We had one week to pay them back, or face the prospect of paying interest and linkage (to the cost-of-living) fees on top of what we 'owed.' We called our accountant, and he said that we really have no choice - they are the only ones who have the numbers. This happened three times within the space of about six months, for a total payment of about NIS 30,000 (around $8,000 at today's exchange rate). For those of you who are wondering how one comes up with that kind of money within a week, it's quite simple: You pay it in multiple payments on your credit card. God willing, we will be done in three months. Until then, we are doing without a car because ours died two months ago....

The next surprise with which we are going to be hit is already on the horizon. I have been getting panicky emails from Mrs. Carl (who is working out of the house today) and with good reason. It seems that the Electric Company made a mistake in its rates (hindsight is always 20/20 or 6/6 if you are metric), and has received approval to raise its rates by 19%. To add insult to injury, the rate hike is effective retroactive to January. And on top of that, only two members of the five-member rate commission did not show up to the public hearing on the rate increase and, you guessed it, they are the two members who are supposed to represent the public.
The Authority held an emergency session on Thursday to discuss the warnings from Israeli credit rating agencies of lowering the rating of Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) (TASE: ELEC.B22) bonds following its announcement that it needs immediate financing of NIS 3.5 billion in order to purchase fuel due to disruptions in the flow of gas from Egypt.

The price rise is expected to take effect at the end of the public hearing, in about two weeks. The electricity tariffs will be retroactive from the beginning of 2011.

Two of the five members of the Public Utility Authority (Electricity) plenum did not participate in the session because of the short notice given and as a result of time constraints. The two are Ministry of National Infrastructures representatives Aharon Doron and public representative from the Ministry of National Infrastructure Ophir Buchnick. Consultation by telephone was held with one of the representatives that did not attend the session.
Yes, of course, we all have to pitch in and pay thousands of extra Shekels to make sure the Electric Company (whose employees get unlimited, free electricity) doesn't have a drop in its credit rating.

Mrs. Carl also sent me a link to this site (which looks worthwhile for Anglos here), which urges us all to write letters of protest, as if we have representatives in the Knesset (we don't - they represent their parties and not us) and as if any of them might do something about it. Just how corrupt is the union-run Israel Electric Company?
The Israel Electric Corporation is in need of cash, at least in part due to the disruptions to the supply of Egyptian natural gas. Of course, many also cite the inefficiencies and high salaries at the Electric Corporation as a huge drain on their coffers. For instance, did you know that the average employee at the Electric Corporation makes 16,273 NIS per month? That is 2.3 times the average wage in Israel! The current average salary was reached after a recent 11.2% raise (averaging 1,645 NIS) in September 2010.
And that doesn't include the free benefit of all that electricity....

But no, the sample letter is not directed to the Knesset, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Infrastructures or the Minister of Finance. It's directed at some poor bureaucrat at the public utilities commission named Osnat Marom. I suspect she will be taking vacation between now and the July 25 deadline for sending letters.

The letter is in Hebrew. All you have to do is cut and paste it and sign your name. This is Israel. They won't read it anyway. They'll just count. Besides, if you have a better letter than anyone else in the socialist paradise (the Electric Company along with several other government companies is a vestige of the bad old days when the socialists controlled everything), someone might try to charge you more or something. And it won't matter in the end anyway. There's no election coming anytime soon.

And you wondered why Jews aren't breaking down the door to move here from Western countries....

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At 7:11 PM, Blogger Thermblog said...

Bureaucratic Israel is horrible and always has been I gather. That's what happens when a bunch of leftists puts together a country.

I can't speak for the USA but here in Canada, the principle of retroactivity certainly applies. I have seen it with the complex issue of customs tariffs and more recently with utilities. The tax dept. also seems free to make up rules for individuals as it goes along.

It does seem though that in Israel it is happening with an unbecoming frequency.

At 8:14 PM, Blogger Chrysler 300M said...

And you wondered why Jews aren't breaking down the door to move here from Western countries....

well, as a true zionist, I bought an apartement being baaretz at least 4x annually

am yisrael chai


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