An abomination | Daily News

An abomination

It is being revealed that the three main political parties are slated to spend a whopping 72 billion rupees on the Local Government election campaign in combination. The revelation was made by a group of Independent economic analysts based on data and calculations. According to them the amount spent on a single candidate contesting the LG election has been estimated at Rs. 3 million. With 8,000 candidates in the fray, from each party, the expenditure related to a single party will come to Rs. 24 billion. Hence, the total amount that will be incurred by the three major parties on the whole campaign will tot up to a cool Rs. 72 billion (24,000 candidates) which is 50 per cent of the total amount spent on Samurdhi. This is in addition to the grants made to each political party by the Government for electioneering. How come that while the official spending by the Election Commission is estimated to be Rs. 10 billion, on the LG poll, the total expenditure of the main political party combined has shot up by seven times this amount? Are the political parties too in the business of printing money? This, while there are calls for the Elections Commission to enlist the service of public servants as much as possible to staff election centres as a means of cutting down on expenditure. Nevertheless the three main political parties have no qualms in spending a massive Rs. 72 billion. This is leaving out the Independents and the money spent by coalitions.

Can any sane person justify such colossal spending on what is after all a Local Government election being held to select area representatives to see to the collection of garbage, repairing culverts and illuminating lamp posts; one which will not change a Government or have any impact in turning around the present economic crisis except worsen the situation due to the massive expenditure involved, taking the country further down the precipice? As the analysts point out, what is splashed during election time by political parties is the money stolen from the people with the intention of earning several fold of the amounts of money spent after victory. Besides, why this hurry to hold a Local Government election before the Delimitation Commission report to halve the number of candidates from 8,000 to 4,000 which will then result in only half this expenditure?

Besides, where is all this money coming from? What happened to the recent directive issued by the Elections Commission for limits imposed on campaign funding and the requirement for all parties to disclose the sources of their funding? Won’t this apply to the LG election? What solution will be forthcoming to the current economic crisis from the outcome of a LG election except to cause further division within the polity and deepen the existing fissures among society? For any election in this country is known to be fought with a lot of rancour and bitterness. There are indications that this election campaign could even supersede other past elections in this respect. How is this going to help economic recovery?

This is also the time where the IMF and other donor agencies are weighing the pros and cons of extending aid to the country in order to get us out of the economic mire. Stability is therefore a sine qua non for donor confidence for assistance. A country coming out of the ruins of a fractious election is not going to instill this confidence among our potential donors. Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, who, the other day, bragged that foreign Governments and lenders have full confidence in him should also know that stirring the pot at a time of economic crisis is not going to endear him to these Governments. Both he and Anura Kumara Dissanayake (AKD) have not proposed their mantra on how to overcome the economic crisis or how they are going to ease the country’s debt burden. Having elections for the sake of elections won’t provide answers.

President Ranil Wickemesinghe has once again explained the gravity of the situation and the crisis that has beset the Treasury in a backdrop that printing money is no longer an option. There had also been a delay in the payment of Samurdhi relief. There is also rampant malnutrition among a sizable segment of the population as confirmed by international bodies such the World Food Programme. Large numbers are also out of employment following the closure of workplaces as a result of the economic blow dealt by the pandemic and poverty levels are on the rise due to the high Cost of Living. In such a backdrop to hold an inconsequential election at this juncture by spending Rs 72 billion is not only unthinkable but also obscene -akin to Nero fiddling while Rome was burning.

The need of the hour is unity by all sections irrespective of race, religion and political difference to see through this extremely difficult period. Elections are certainly not going to bring about this unity but only exacerbate existing divisions. President Wickremesinghe has already pulled out from participating in the election stating that his mandate was not to hold elections but see through the present economic crisis. It is such Statesmanship that is required from all other political leaders, instead of jostling for power.


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