The Right Lessons to be Drawn from Political Parties Spending in GE2015
The Elections Department has released the candidates’ returns of election expenses during GE2015 and they make for interesting reading (I have used the Straits Times graphics):
What stands out immediately is what a cost-effective campaign Reform Party ran. We only spent $0.14 per voter in Ang Mo Kio and $0.19 per voter in West Coast. By contrast the PAP spent over 10 times as much as us in Ang Mo Kio and just under 10 times as much in West Coast.
We also seriously underspent the other parties, many of which performed less well than us when their results are “normalised” by comparing them with 2011. In the Straits Times’ own words, “The Singapore Democratic Party spent $1.30 per voter on average, the highest among all opposition parties. The Workers’ Party was second, at 95 cents per voter, while the Singapore People’s Party spent 69 cents per voter. Reform Party spent the least per voter: 19 cents.”
In addition NSP spent over three times as much as us per voter and so did Singaporeans First. If we control for the higher levels of spending and the longevity of the parties’ brands then we clearly performed the best.
Even in the three-cornered fight in Radin Mas a supposedly “independent” but in reality Socialist Front candidate who played the race card, broke several election laws and outspent us by almost 50% on a per-voter basis was beaten into second place by our candidate who had a much smaller social media footprint. In addition she lost her deposit.
By demonstrating how efficiently we can run an election campaign, we have also demonstrated that we are likely to be by far and away the most efficient party at running a town council. Singaporeans can be confident that there will be no cronyism or inflated costs if we are managing things and that the cost savings will be fully passed on to the residents in the form of lower S&CC or higher expenditure on amenities.
The other lesson is how big a role money plays in Singapore’s election campaigns. Despite already tilting the playing field hugely in their favour by having absolute control of the media and the election process, the PAP still found it necessary to spend nearly three times as much as all the other parties put together. Interestingly SDP spent almost as much as WP despite only fielding 11 candidates to WP’s 28 and over six times what we spent for the same number of candidates.
If we would be efficient town council managers we would be even more efficient at running the government and controlling waste and unnecessary expenditure while maximising spending on Singaporeans and keeping taxes low. This is the real lesson to be drawn here.