RM1 bil price tag for GE15 an ‘exaggeration’, says ex-EC deputy chairman

Former EC deputy chairman Wan Ahmad Wan Omar says the cost of holding the next general election will probably be 30% higher than in GE14.

PETALING JAYA: A former Election Commission deputy chairman disagreed with Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman’s claim that the next general election would cost RM1 billion in view of the expected increase in the number of voters.

Wan Ahmad Wan Omar said even if the number of registered voters were to reach 20 million – in anticipation of the voting age being lowered from 21 to 18 – the increase in cost to conduct the elections will probably be about 30% more than in GE14.

It will not reach a billion ringgit, he said.

Wan Ahmad, who has overseen four general elections, said the increase would probably be due to the need for additional ballot boxes and papers, more personnel to manage additional polling streams, stationery and cost of hiring vehicles and helicopters for polling in Sabah and Sarawak.

Even then, he said an increase in printing ballot papers would be minimal.

Hiring more election staff would also mean a little more would need to be set aside for their allowances.

The price tag to conduct training programmes, meanwhile, would not change as such programmes are more or less the same. Only the number of people attending would increase.

He said transport, accommodation and travel costs would not be affected by an increase in the number of voters and should “be about the same as GE14”.
In fact, Wan Ahmad said the one major factor that would affect the cost of an election would be inflation as it would impact the price of goods and services.

“I think the RM1 billion price tag is an exaggeration.

“To me, it may cost about RM750 million at the very most for EC to do the job,” he told FMT.

Yesterday, Syed Saddiq said that the May 9, 2018 polls, which had 14 million registered voters, cost half a billion ringgit.

Wan Ahmad also said that from his observation during his 17 years with EC, the budget allocated can be managed, such as refraining from hiring expensive caterers to provide food for election staff.

He said the EC would not necessarily spend all the money set aside for a GE as part of their allocation would also cover possible contingencies, such as floods.

Syed Saddiq may have quoted the RM1 billion price tag to stay on the “safe side”, he said.

“If he had cited a lower figure and the actual sum requested turned out to be more, it would turn into an unnecessary issue,” Wan Ahmad said.