How Pervasive is Clientelist Politics in the Pacific

Ronald Duncan, Graham Hassall

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    This study draws upon the economic theory of contracts to measure the extent of clientelism in Pacific countries and compare their clientelist behavior with that of other countries. The high costs of enforcing contracts between political incumbents and voters suggest various hypotheses to be tested. These include behaviors such as (i) an emphasis on targeted transfers to voter groups rather than the provision of public goods that benefit the wider community; (ii) little interest by politicians in establishing secure property rights and impartial contract enforcement (the two pillars of market economies), as doing so undermines the politicians’ ability to create rents and distribute targeted transfers; and (iii) little interest in making the bureaucracy more efficient, as this also undermines the politicians’ ability to deliver rents to their voters. Some forms of clientelist behavior are not easy to measure directly and therefore their measurement necessarily involved arbitrary judgments in choosing less direct indicators. The evidence assembled suggests that Kiribati, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Solomon Islands exhibit behavior that is most consistent with that suggested by the clientelist model. These are also countries with some of the lowest per capita incomes and poorest economic growth in the Pacific.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe Political Economy of Economic Reform in the Pacific
    Editors Ron Duncan
    Place of PublicationPhillipines
    PublisherAsian Development Bank
    ISBN (Print)9789290923138
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


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