Just Call It 5 BILLION: 5 Big Areas of Election Spending We Never Add Together

This post is a part of the series, Election Economics 101Exploring issues of money, the upcoming general elections (in Jamaica) and the relationship between the two. Stay tuned as we discuss some of the hot topics that you should be concerned about during this time.

Elections are a lot more expensive than you or I can imagine. We are however going to try to imagine just how much this upcoming 2011 general election in Jamaica will cost.

Call me negative, but I think the political campaign financing regulations will be greatly respected by Jamaican politicians as are every other system implemented to tame their wild ways.

If this election is anything like the 2007 general election in the area of spending then (with inflation) this is what this 2011 election will cost you:

1. Campaign Spending

In preparation for an election, campaign spending occurs on two fronts. First the political parties themselves spend money in each of the 63 constituencies and second, the candidates themselves spend money.

Election date announcement in Mandeville - 2011

The numbers are startling:

 a.    Party Spending

According to The Gleaner,In the 2007 General Election it is estimated that the PNP and JLP spent, between them, around $1.5 billion, or around $25 million per constituency. This does not include what candidates spent individually.” (Gleaner) (Emphasis added)

I hope you got that last sentence.

b.    Candidate Spending

According to the new campaign finance regulations, candidates are obligated to spend NO MORE than $10 million.

$10 million for 63 constituencies equal $630 million.

My Wild Card Number

Now logically, if there needs to be a rule limiting spending, then we can infer that without the rule candidates would spend more. Knowing how much our candidates respect the rules, we can infer that candidates will spend more.

So if we add an extra $5 million per constituency we get an additional $315 million.

2. Electoral Commission Spending

The numbers here will confuse you. The EOJ has apparently requested $350 million to prepare for the 2011 general election.

In 2007 however it was reported that the election (relating to the EOJ) “cost the Government $816 million to finance.”

Additionally, in a Gleaner Editorial on campaign financing it was noted though that the EOJ’s budget “in 2007/2008 was around $2.2 billion.” (Gleaner)

My guess is that the $350 million requested with be supplemented by the EOJ’s budget for the year.

3. Jamaica Debates Commission (JDC) Spending

The JDC reported in at a press conference carried on Jamaican television that its budget is approximately $20 million. Mr. Gary Allen, the Commission’s Chairman did mention however that the commission expects to be funded by corporate sponsorship.

The rest are hard to quantify…

4. Essential Services Voting Day

One week ahead of everyone else, approximately 32,000 people (6,000 police, 1,800 members of the military and another 24,200 election day workers and polling station security assistants) vote.

The vote takes place at 240 polling stations Island wide.

I see no reason why this mini-election would not already be covered within the EOJ’s main budget – but note it as an area of cost.

5. Mobilizing Army, Police and Health Services

We take for granted that the police and military travel, eat, work overtime, and more at, largely, the government’s expense.

Think 6,000 police officers, plus 1,800 members of the military working overtime for at least one full week.

Police hard at work

Additionally, there is the increased use of the medical services.

It’s truly hard to quantify all this however, as we do not know now how many people will need service, or what overtime costs will look like.

My Wild Card Number

Being very modest: Let’s imagine it cost the government $5,000 per officer to transport (gas, gas, gas), feed, house in some cases, and pay overtime to the 7800 security personnel in our security forces, for intensified services over just 1 week.

It would come to $ 39,000,000.00

6. Closing Work Fully, Half Day + Everybody Being Distracted Anyway

How much money do we earn daily in Jamaica? How much money do we lose when we skip a day of productivity?

WOW! Today's a busy day... no tourists though. Look at the travel advisories

My Wild Card Number

I devised a crude method of deciding a figure. Taking the $13.9 Billon GDP as reported by the World Bank, I divided it by 365 days. The total was $38,082,192.


Though no comprehensive analysis of all the costs associated with a general election has thus far been done, it is clear to see from some very rough, but definitely conservative figures that Jamaican elections cost no less than $5 Billion dollars.

What do you think about these top 5 areas of spending? Has it ever occurred to you that elections might actually be a VERY costly event for a country?

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Andrew Wildes (@AndrewWildes), a law student, journalist and aspiring author. Read more about Andrew at MaximizeMyLife.

Photo Credit: 1 2 3

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