Economists Bemoan Real Cost of Poll Postponement

Nigerians were taken aback when the country’s presidential and National Assembly election was postponed Saturday…but that’s not the worst of it as economists say the real cost of the postponement is catastrophic.

There was widespread outrage when Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in the dead of the night announced that the polls had been shifted back by a week over logistical challenges.

Many had travelled far to cast their votes, schools were closed and businesses shut down as Nigerians looked to play their part in determining the country’s future.

With negative reactions trailing the poll shift, Muda Yusuf, General Director of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the cost to the conomy was ‘horrendous’.

“The cost to the economy of the postponement of the election is horrendous,” said Muda.

“The economy was on partial shutdown the day before, and total shut down on Saturday for the elections” that did not take place, he explained.

The leading candidates, incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari and challenger Abubakar Atiku, both called for calm, but a population of 190 million people facing unemployment and extreme poverty took a real financial hit from the decision.

For many, the cost of leaving cities where they work to go home and vote in their native regions is substantial.

Social media was used meanwhile to organise collections for street vendors who had bought perishable items to sell to voters that often wait in long lines.

The amount ultimately raised was unlikely to make much difference to tens of millions of people who live on less than $1.9 a day, but it did highlight solidarity not always widespread in the country.

For economist Bismark Rewane however, “the most important cost … is the reputational cost.

“Investors’ confidence will be eroded” and in the long term, when indirect costs were taken into account, the delay might cost the equivalent of two percentage points of national output, he said.

In currency terms, Rewane estimated the possible cost at “nine to 10 billion dollars.”

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