JERUSALEM, Jan. 23 (JTA) — The Prime Minister’s Office this week unveiled its plan to sell off government-owned companies in a massive privatization effort. Under the plan, some 13 state firms, including the Bezek telephone company, Israel Chemicals and Zim shipping would be sold by the end of 1997. Except for Israel Chemicals, no specific recommendations have been drawn up for selling off the companies, or the size of the stock offering that will be involved. Companies that did not appear on the privatization list included the electric company, the Mekorot water company and Rafael Defense Industries. Officials from the Prime Minister’s Office who were involved in drawing up the plan noted that the primary purpose was to reduce the level of government involvement in the economy, rather than to make a sizable profit on the sale. “We prefer to carry out the sell-off in a shorter time period over getting the highest price,” said Moshe Leon, deputy director general at the Prime Minister’s Office. Leon and Tsipi Livni, director of the Government Companies Authority, led the team that prepared the privatization report issued this week. The privatization plan divided state companies into three categories: those ready for immediate privatization in the coming year, those not ready and those that should be considered for privatization. The first category includes Israel Chemicals and Zim, in which the government already does not have a controlling share. Other companies are already involved in the privatization process, in accordance with a decision made by the previous Labor government. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated since taking office last year that he intends to pursue privatization. Netanyahu chairs the ministerial committee overseeing the privatization effort. Finance Minister Dan Meridor and Justice Minister Tzachi Hanegbi also sit on the committee.
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