Spending in poll campaign different this time

Published On: May 11, 2017 01:30 AM NPT By: Rudra Pangeni  | @rudrapang

KATHMANDU, May 11: Candidates  in the three provinces going to local polls in the first phase  are using a different publicity modality than in past election campaigns. The use of pamphlets and brochures is sparse  this time  and the demand for paper for publicity purposes is very low, according to Nepal Printers Association. 

Unlike in the parliamentary elections three years ago, the candidates are now into door-to-door campaigning and they also organize gatherings to solicit votes. The candidates  mobilize their cadres for the door-to-door work, according to one individual involved in   electionering. The cadres are offered lunch and dinner.

“We have seen a very low demand for printing publicity material and this is  probably a good trend,” said Sunil Gopal Shrestha, advisor to the Printing Association. Shrestha said  the candidates  have also turned to social media,  and the use of loudspeakers has  dwindled. 

Others who have not felt any uptick in business from the elections  are those providing sound systems and hand mikes. 

Narendra Bahadur Shrestha, who sells sound systems at New Road, said the demand is only normal. "In  past elections, we could hardly meet the demand for hand mikes and sound systems," he added. 

Meanwhile, liquor outlets have seen a surge in demand since last week, indicating that the candidates have been spending on this item. A liquor entrepreneur at Putalisadak, who does not wish to be named, said the demand for liquor has almost trebled, and they even come late at night and force the shop to reopen. 

The mayoral candidates in Kathmandu said they had very little time for the election campaign. “Well-wishers are helping us in the campaigning and the spending is only as per the code of conduct. A ward member can spend up to Rs 150,000 while the spending cap for mayors is  Rs 750,000. 

But economists have a different take. They estimate that  spending for the elections will see a whopping jump as every candidate  has been raking in the donations and they will spend one way or  other.  

“Collection of donations from  locals has reached a new  level,” said economist Dipendra Bahadur Chhetri. He said the spending cap is not practical as the money  comes through unaccounted sources as well as through banking channels. 

Chairman of Nepal Bankers' Association Anil Shah said  they have not received any withdrawal pressure as of  Tuesday for election spending.  

The combined cost of the election, including spending by candidates, might be in a range between Rs 75 billion to Rs 100 billion, economists estimate.

The government has provided a total of Rs 18 billion for the elections, of which Rs 10.29 billion is for the EC and another Rs 8 billion is for security. Government officials say the cost is sure to increase as the budget was allotted for single-phase elections. 

Economist Posh Raj Pandey said the spending might be somewhere above Rs 75 billion. 

In an interview with Republica last month, former finance secretary Rameshwor Khanal said candidates spend like during religious festivals to woo the voters. Industrialists and businesspersons also donate to the candidates separately. 

Economists Pandey said that  opaque spending in  elections only fosters corruption as those elected  tend to recover the money through policy corruption. 

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