Aug 31, 2011

SAVE US FROM “REFORMA”


At the outset, I admit I am not objective. I believe that anything in Israel called a “Reforma” (reform) makes things worse than they were before. If anyone disagrees with me, I am willing to debate the issue whether orally or in writing.

The latest disaster called a reforma is the major reconfiguration of bus lines in the Gush Dan area. In theory this was supposed to make public transport faster, more convenient, and more efficient. Unfortunately, as is usual, in this case the theory has no resemblance to the reality.

Every day new horror stories arise regarding the unfortunate results of this transportation reform. The Minister, despite his protestations to the contrary, is not doing anything visible to ameliorate the situation. If they simply reversed the entire process and went back to the way it was before, the public would benefit greatly.

Another example of the reforma is the swindle removing water distribution from the local authorities to the new water companies. This enables the government to charge the consumer two to three times more for the same water while piling taxes on top of taxes, including VAT which was never previously charged on water.

What happens when a consumer complains to the Water Company about his outrageously inflated water bill? He gets a call from a nice young clerk, reading from a script prepared by the Water Company, who tells him that he must have a leak and he should hire an installator (plumber) at his expense to check it out. This fiendishly clever response must have been prepared by a top advertising or PR mind. In one moment it achieves multiple purposes.
1.    It puts the blame on the consumer for the inflated bill.
2.    It tells him he has to pay money out of his pocket to check the accusation of the Company, made automatically without any knowledge of the real facts.
3.    They also tell him that if he is late in paying the bill they will charge him interest.
The intended effect on most consumers is that they figure it will cost less to pay the bill than to hire an installator and they give up. Score three points for the Water Company and its genius PR advisor.

The proper consumer response should be, “I have nothing personally against you young lady, but your company charges me exorbitant fees, and claims in expensive advertising handouts to give me service. So let them hire an installator to check whether there is really a leak.” Also demand a written answer.

When I said this, the clerk asked me plaintively, “What do you want me to write?” I told her to pass my complaint to her superior or her legal department and let them decide what to write.

In a recent story which was reported on the radio, the Bat Yam Water Company sent a bill for NIS 30,000 (yes, thirty thousand new shekels) to a senior couple living on Bituah Leumi old age pension. Even with the intervention of the radio program they decided they could only reduce it to NIS 12,000 and all the wise men of Chelm could not find a legal way to solve the problem. They offered the old couple the chance to pay it out over time, but then (of course) they would have to pay interest!

The Water Companies Law grants companies a license to steal. They claim correctly that their fees for water are set by the government and they cannot change them. I think if the issue ever reaches the High Court of Justice (Bagatz) they will decide it is "ultra vires" (beyond the competence) of the Knesset to give any private company a license to steal, and the law is unconstitutional.

In too many cases enacting a law means that the Treasury text automatically becomes the Knesset text, without passing through the minds of the MK’s. Charles Dickens wrote in “Oliver Twist”, “The law is an ass.”

2 comments:

  1. Yitz, you left out education. The new Ofek plan treats the teachers like lazy factory workers. A few years ago, a 55 plus teacher had to work 24 hours frontal teaching in elementary school. Considering all of the preparation required, that's plenty. Now there's no reduction, and they must work 39 or more including all sorts of "extra" teaching responsibilities. There are still the prepartion hours at home.

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