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.
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
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.
“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
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.”