Corporate cash splash

Corporate cash splash

Private sector entities donate millions to JLP, PNP

BY ARTHUR HALL
Editor-at-large
halla@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

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Corporate Jamaica has splashed out millions of dollars to support both major political parties in their campaign for tomorrow's general election.

The Jamaica Observer has confirmed that a number of entities gave the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and People's National Party (PNP) big donations in the two weeks before the reporting period started on August 11 when Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced the September 3 General Election.

The campaign donation reporting period ends 180 days after the poll.

The entities which made their donations before the reporting period could escape the new campaign financing regulations which require them to submit a report to the Electoral Commission of Jamaica, but a number of other corporate entities, which have no problem obeying the law, have since declared their contributions to the Observer.

Among them are National Commercial Bank, which told the Observer that it donated $30 million to both major political parties.

“Further to the announcement of Jamaica's general elections to be held on September 3, 2020, the board of directors of National Commercial Bank Jamaica Limited approved a total contribution of $30 million for both major political parties,” the bank said in response to questions from the Observer.

“Both the Jamaica Labour Party and the People's National Party have received $15 million each, of which $10 million should be allocated as a general contribution towards the upcoming elections, and $5 million should be allocated for individual fund-raising efforts with equal distribution of approximately $80,000 to each candidate,” added the financial institution.

Another big spender was Sagicor Group, which revealed that it had made donations of $15.5 million to each party.

“Sagicor Group Jamaica has made equal cash contributions to the two major political parties — the Jamaica Labour Party and the People's National Party. The group will be declaring all political donations to the Electoral Commission of Jamaica as required by the law,” said the company.

Another financial institution, Scotiabank, said while it did not contribute directly to the two major parties it has contributed to the electoral process.

“Scotiabank supports the maintenance of a strong democratic process, however we do not make donations to political parties. The bank committed sponsorship of $5 million to support the staging of the 2020 National Electoral Debates in order to provide the public with the opportunity to hear from both parties in order to make an informed choice in the upcoming elections,” Scotiabank told the Observer.

Meanwhile, Victoria Mutual (VM) Group also confirmed that it opened its purse to the JLP and PNP.

“The Victoria Mutual Group exists for the benefit of our members and Jamaicans of all walks of life. We have historically supported nation-building and have always been advocates for a free and well-run democracy.

“The VM Group has provided a $1-million contribution to each of the two major political parties in support of their election campaigns. The VM Group also provided sponsorship for the recent Jamaica Debates Commission-hosted national debates,” said the financial group in response to Observer queries.

“We believe that the winner of the elections must offer inclusive leadership, as only a united Jamaica will successfully climb the steep mountain ahead of us,” added the VM Group.

Other financial entities Proven Wealth Limited and JMMB Group said they contributed $5 million, shared equally between the JLP and the PNP, while Supreme Venture Limited said it donated $5 million each to both parties.

The internationally owned Caribbean Cement Company and world renowned rum manufacturers J Wray & Nephew said they did not donate to either party. But J Wray & Nephew issued a qualifier.

“We do not contribute to political elections as a matter of course. We can confirm that we have contributed products to both parties throughout the year for specific local initiatives and report on this annually in our global investor report that is available online,” said the rum company.

Telecommunications firm Flow Jamaica reported that it donated advertising insertions valued at $5.6 million to each of the two major political parties.

“The slots are broadcast on Flow One and foreign stations on which the company inserts advertising,” said the firm as it noted that it is compliant with the country's anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws.

Flow said, guided by its governance policies, it is “politically neutral”.

A number of other major entities, including some in the distributive trade, telecommunications, construction, fast-food, and tourism, are also believed to have made contributions to the parties, but the details were not available at press time.

The two major political parties have shelled out millions of dollars for the just-ended campaign with glitzy radio, television, print, and social media ads.

While the novel coronavirus pandemic curtailed the usual massive public meetings, there were several radio and TV broadcasts, while the regular T-shirts and party paraphernalia were in abundance.

A new feature was the release of 'dubs' — musical recordings done to praise individual candidates.

The usual reports of $5,000 and $10,000 being placed in T-shirts and given to supporters were aplenty.

Under the campaign financing legislation, parties are allowed to spend up to $10 million per constituency to a maximum of the number of candidates it fields in the election. This equates to $630 million for the JLP and the PNP.

Additionally, each candidate can, individually, spend $15 million on a campaign.


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