Taxpayers could fund political campaigns


November 27, 2015

Jamaicans may soon be required to dig deep into their pockets and fork out hard-earned cash to fund political campaigns.

The new campaign finance bill, which is currently being debated in the House of Representatives, is proposing that taxpayers be called upon to stand up to 40 per cent of the costs of each candidate who is a member of a registered political party.

Consolidated Fund FINANCING

This could mean at least $504 million being taken out of the Consolidated Fund and given to run general election campaigns, assuming that all candidates for the People's National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour party (JLP) apply for the funding.

The amount, however, could increase if independent candidates make requests for state funding.

Taxpayers currently bear the costs of paying for scrutineers, who examine or inspect electoral activities on behalf of political parties, and provide duty concession for political parties to import vehicles for campaign purposes.

Phillip Paulwell, the minister with responsibility for electoral affairs, said the availability of funds will determine whether candidates benefit from the funds.

"It is that provision that we are agreeing to include, so it is clear that, under the current financing regime, we would not be able to accommodate any such funds from the Consolidated Fund for the near future," Paulwell said.

The Portia Simpson Miller-led Government had attempted to withdraw its support for state funding of political campaigns, saying it was being "very sensitive and responsive to the will of our people".

"Based on the canvassing, it is not a matter that the electorate would support, and so we didn't want to upset and anger the electorate. Having reviewed it, we would not be able to convince our side to support it," Paulwell said.

The Government has, however, backtracked from the position, saying it would not want to offend a long-established tradition, which sees Parliament not making amendments to bills or reports that have been sent to it by the Electoral Commission of Jamaica.

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