Israel Puts Cost of Election Day at 1.7 Billion

The nationwide vacation will cost the business sector about NIS 1.17 billion, of which NIS 280 million will be carried by the country's manufacturers and the rest by the public sector.

The Election Day holiday will cost the economy about NIS 1.7 billion in lost output, the Manufacturers Association said on Sunday.

"However important the business sector regards the democratic process, we must examine whether the goal of increasing voter turnout justifies the heavy cost to the economy," said the association's president, Zvi Oren. "We need to search for a mechanism whereby output isn't hurt and voting is nonetheless encouraged, like placing ballot boxes in central areas of employment."

The nationwide vacation will cost the business sector about NIS 1.17 billion, of which NIS 280 million will be carried by the country's manufacturers, said the association, which represents the country's biggest companies. Lost output in the public sector accounts for the rest, it said.

Meanwhile, the Association of Crafts and Industry in Israel called for the abolition of the Election Day holiday, saying it will cost small manufacturers at least NIS 100 million.

According to a survey conducted by the association, 84% of owners of small and medium-sized businesses said they opposed Election Day being a legally mandated vacation.

"A day off is unnecessary and damaging to Israeli industry," said association president Yehuda Elhadif. "Many Western countries like Britain and the Netherlands maintain glorious democracies without election days being holidays."

Ruby Ginel, director of the Manufacturers Association's economics division, said the day off will have a positive effect for some sectors of the economy, such as retail outlets and entertainment venues, where traffic will go up. But he estimated that the uptick to economic activity would amount to just a few hundred million shekels in extra revenue.

"This is an unnecessary loss of productivity and is damaging to the entire Israeli economy, particularly light industrial enterprises that are currently struggling to survive increasing economic slowdown and global uncertainty," said Elhadif.

He called for the government to cancel the holiday for future elections and replace it with a short paid break from work.

The survey of small manufacturers also found that 61% believed that the holiday would force them to delay deliveries and lead to a 59% loss of output.

At Ben-Gurion International Airport, officials said traffic is expected to be normal for this time of year. About 10,600 travelers are booked for outgoing flights on Election Day, most of them Israelis, the Airports Authority said. Some 10,700 people will be flying into the country.

People finding themselves more than 20 kilometers from where they are registered to vote are entitled to free public transportation. But Israel Railways will have fewer scheduled trains than usual, and some lines, like Dimona-Be'er Sheva, won't be operating at all. Key lines like Tel Aviv-Modi'in will run once an hour.

Reuters