ISLAMABAD: Amid ongoing talks for early elections in the country, the government on Thursday informed the National Assembly that the next general elections would cost the national exchequer over Rs47 billion, more than twice the 2018 polls cost.

A major chunk from the election budget — Rs15bn — will go to law-enforcement agencies for deployment of troops to ensure security during the polling days. In the July 2018 elections, the finance ministry paid Rs9bn to the army to provide security for the exercise.

The government was responding to a question from MNA Sheikh Rohale Asghar who asked for a head-wise count of total expenditures to be incurred by the government in the next elections.

The general elections of 2018 cost the federal exchequer more than three times the cost of the previous elections of 2008 and 2013 put together. The elections of 2018 cost the government over Rs21bn, which included more than Rs10.5bn on the usual polling exercise, such as training, printing, remunerations, transportation and related expenses.

The 2008 general elections cost the government Rs1.84bn out of the federal budget. It surged to Rs4.73bn in 2013 general elections, showing an increase of almost 157 per cent. The army was paid Rs758 million in the 2013 elections compared to Rs120m paid in 2008.

The National Assembly was further informed that preparations were under way for general elections 2023. Two major activities in relation to conduct of general elections, delimitation of constituencies and periodical revision of electoral rolls, were under way.

Another chunk, Rs1.799bn, would be spent for training of staff. The cost of printing ballot papers would be Rs4.8bn. Payment to Project Manager of Data Centre, electronic voting machine (EVM) and I-Voting would also cost some amount, but the government on Thursday reverted amendments made by the previous Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government in election rules for this purpose. Clauses related to voting rights of overseas Pakistanis and holding elections using electronic voting machines (EVM) had been declared null and void.

Nonetheless, electoral rolls (printing) will cost Rs272m and media coordination outreach such as advertisement and publicity would cost the government more than Rs500m. Another Rs1.24bn will go to the Election Commission Headquarters.

Similarly, the government gave a breakdown of expenditures in the provinces. Elections in Punjab will cost approximately Rs9.66bn followed by Sindh with Rs3.65bn, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Rs3.95bn and Balochistan Rs1.1bn

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2022

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