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Election economics

  • Published at 10:15 pm September 30th, 2018
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We need a free and fair election for public good Bigstock

Though there are real doubts regarding how much money was spent during the 2014 election, expenditure around all party joined inclusive election is increasing over last few years

Though we are yet to know a definite date for next parliamentary election, media reported it may be held during end December or early January. Media also reported, the “election time government” may be formed by the third week of October.

This time, the electorate is more or less confident that there won’t be any “2014 type” of election and if we trust the development partners, the election is hoped to be joined by all possible major political parties. 

Global investors and “eager to invest” communities would also like to see a peaceful transition to a new government. Some of our friends are praying so that they can lodge their votes as per their wish and for their desired or admired candidate.

Though there are real doubts regarding how much money was spent during the 2014 election, expenditure around all party joined inclusive election is increasing over last few years. For 2018-19, the government has proposed an allocation of Tk1,895 crore for the Election Commission ahead of the next general election. The allocation in 2017-18 was Tk953cr.

The commission demanded Tk700cr for holding the national election in a free and fair manner. The commission also demanded Tk500cr for holding other elections, including local government elections. So a total of Tk1200cr was demanded by EC for holding all elections.

There was no separate budget provisioned for holding the general election but the finance ministry very generously doubled the allocation for the Election Commission for FY2018-19, compared to 2017-18.

This is from the government’s side of it. If the election is an all-party participating one, then the individual candidates are likely to spend at least a crore at an average in each constituency.

I know of an incident in 2001, where a politician, subsequently a state minister, on selection quota received Tk4cr for surrendering the election ticket in favour of another businessman. If there are 1,000 candidates for all 300 seats, one is talking about at least Tk1,000cr.

This is not enough. The way ruling governments try to please the government servants, various agencies, and pressure groups including journalists (in the name of helping the distressed ones), I won’t be surprised if the government exchequer or even the honourable PM’s relief fund gets to see a release of another Tk100cr as dole or incentives before election.

How is the “election money” being spent?

Printing posters, election manifestos, entertaining people, paying for workers/campaigners conveyance, and, most importantly, bribing different “pressure pockets.”

The way the number of businessmen or absentee landlords are vying for poll-tickets, spreading away, or throwing away undesired favours is likely to increase manifold. The electorate knows they don’t have anything to get from most of the elected members of the parliament, hence they settle for quick monetary gains.Elected MPs in return ensure reciprocity from the elected government, not from electorate.

Does this process contribute towards creating synergy in the rural pockets? Answer would be “yes” and “no.”

Some of the rich candidates also try to donate money to local mosques and madrasas. Preliminary investigations also reveal that local law enforcement agencies also get a piece of the pie.

We need elections to ensure a democratic transition, and to ensure that policy-making and implementation are more inclusive and participatory. However, spending large amounts from the national exchequer for the sake of holding the election, and the absence of due diligence around those expenses, does not help us reach public good. 

The same goes for spending “untaxed” or “unearned” private money to influence or drive poll results the other way round.

Mamun Rashid is an economic analyst.