'Elections cost economy NIS 1.1 billion'

January 22, 2013 19:30

According to a business information group, the economy would forgo NIS 1.1 billion in lost business due to the elections.

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New Israeli Shekels

Money Shekels bills 521. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The popular American idiom that “freedom isn’t free” found fertile support in Israel Tuesday, as businesses shuttered for the day and the government shelled out for early elections.

According to business information group BDI, the economy had to forgo NIS 1.1 billion in lost business due to the elections. That figure, added BDI, takes into account the hordes of election day revelers who stimulate the economy by spending their day off sitting in restaurants, sipping beer or coffee and lunching with friends.

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This price eclipses the measly NIS 246.78 million election budget the Knesset Finance Committee approved in October, which amounted to a NIS 40m.

increase over the previous election.

Part of the reason for the high price tag is that the 40,000 enterprises that remain open are required to pay their workers higher wages to compensate them for labor on a national holiday. The fact that the country’s political instability leads to more frequent elections means the costs pile on, according to the company’s CEO Eyal Yanai, who went as far as to call for election day to be a regular working day.

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“It’s a heavy burden on the business sector and the economy as a whole,” he said.

“At least in terms of the day-off costs, it’s worth considering turning election day into a normal work day.”

He pointed to countries such as the United States, where election days are not national holidays.

While some argue that the holiday encourages increased voter turnout, a 2003 Canadian study on the matter found that it did not “appear that voter turnout is any higher in countries where polling day is a holiday.”

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