Netanyahu Eyes "Huge Reform" of Israel's Sea Ports

By MarEx 2013-04-24 12:10:00

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he planned to push forward with a reform of sea ports as part of a series of economic changes aimed at bringing prices down.

"After the big reform we made in the cellular (sector), and after the open skies reform we approved this week in the cabinet, we will bring to the cabinet next week an additional reform whose aim is to lower the prices of private vehicles in Israel," Netanyahu told a parliament session on Wednesday.

"After that will come a huge reform in Israel's sea ports and many other reforms whose aim is to lower the prices of goods and services for all Israelis."

Israeli media reported that the conservative premier has approved a Transport Ministry plan to set up a private port that would compete with Israel's two existing Mediterranean ports, Ashdod and Haifa.

When asked by Reuters to confirm this, an official in the prime minister's Office said: "The prime minister gave his OK to advance the plan."

In the past, plans to reform Israeli ports have met heavy resistance from labour unions.

"No strike will deter us from making these moves," said Netanyahu, a staunch supporter of free markets.

On Sunday, the cabinet approved an "open skies" deal that liberalises aviation between Israel and Europe and is expected to bring in more foreign airlines and lower air fares. The decision provoked a two-day strike at flag carrier El Al and two smaller Israeli airlines.

Last year, the government opened up the telecoms market, leading to six new mobile phone operators and a steep drop in phone call rates.

--Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Mark Heinrich (C) Reuters 2013.