Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves reignited the debate about campaign financing when he announced in Parliament last month that the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) had received US$500,000 (EC$1.3 million) from overseas two weeks before the Dec. 9, 2015 general elections.
NDP president Arnhim Eustace has confirmed to iWitness News that the NDP did receive the funds, saying they were a campaign contribution.
To many Vincentian individuals and groups, EC$1.3 million is a lot of money to receive in one go and many persons have speculated about the origin of the funds, the intentions of the donor and how the monies were used.
But, based on Gonsalves comments last Tuesday, EC$1.3 million is no a lot of money for a political party to spend during an election campaign.
According to Gonsalves, EC$1.3 million might just be enough for a political party to buy campaign t-shirts.
“… you require about a million dollars Eastern Caribbean for t-shirts. You need 50,000 t-shirts. They cost printed, a good one, if it’s $20 it’s a million dollars. But more likely, $25 for one (a total of EC$1.25 million),” the prime minister and political leader of the ruling Unity Labour Party told reporters in Kingstown on Tuesday, Aug. 30.
The ULP has in the past commented about its campaign “war chest”, a reference to the extent of its campaign financing.
This was also evident in the last elections at the ULP’s rallies, including its multimedia productions, foreign artistes, social media advertising and the like.
One commentator told iWitness News that if the NDP was better financed for the December 2015 general elections, it certainly didn’t show.
On the other hand, the NDP may have better managed it resources, ensuring that its bills were paid at the end of the campaign, the commentator said.
They have noted that unlike minibus operators who transported persons to NDP rallies, many of those who provided the same service to the ULP are yet to be paid fully — nine months later.
Over the past few weeks, several minibus owners and operators have approached iWitness News asking us to write again about the monies that the ULP still owes to them for transporting persons to rallies last year.
They say that when we wrote about the situation some months ago, the party paid some of the money to them.
“The NDP certainly did pay its service providers,” one omnibus owner who the ULP owes told iWitness News recently.
“What the NDP did with 1.3 million two weeks before an election,” the omnibus owner asked rhetorically?
“That, for the NDP or the ULP is just one election rally,” he commented.