‘Lack of trust’: Economy minister asks Competition Authority chief to resign
Nir Barkat claims ‘weakness’ of agency under Michal Cohen a key reason for rising food prices, accuses her of refusing to adopt his policies
Economy Minister Nir Barkat on Monday asked the director of the Israel Competition Authority to quit, charging that the agency was “suffering from severe underperformance” with her at the helm.
According to Barkat’s office, he summoned Michal Cohen and requested her resignation after “examining” her conduct over the past five months. The Competition Authority is under the aegis of the Economy Ministry but has operational independence and is not subordinate to the minister.
“The fact that the food companies, the monopolies, and many centralized markets have lost restraint regarding price increases derives first and foremost from the weakness of the authority as a restraining factor,” the statement said.
Barkat argued that under Cohen, the Competition Authority had not adopted “an active and decisive policy for addressing the core issues” in its remit, “chiefly increasing competition,” though he did not elaborate further.
He said he had known upon entering office that Cohen’s agency was a “weak link,” but that he gave her “a genuine and real opportunity” to work together. Since then, however, a “deep lack of trust” has developed, he said and accused her of “refusing” to adopt his policies.
There was no immediate comment from Cohen.
The move follows several price increases by food manufacturers in recent weeks, along with government-regulated dairy products and bread, leading to criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-religious coalition, given his campaign vows to fight rising grocery bills.
The increased food prices have helped contribute to persistent inflation, leading the Bank of Israel to declare Monday before Barkat’s announcement that it was hiking borrowing costs by another 25 basis points, bringing the interest rate to 4.75 percent.
The continued rate hikes — as well as Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron’s warnings over the judicial overhaul — have prompted criticism of the governor by some coalition figures, including members of Netanyahu’s Likud party. Earlier Monday, United Torah Judaism MK Yisrael Eichler said Yaron should quit, as the increased interest rates have not tamped down inflation.