The Atrophied State: A Supply-Side Perspective on Politician "Slush Funds" in Western Melanesia

Jon Fraenkel

    Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


    Characteristics of Western Melanesian politics—such as the absence of robust political parties, fluid factional allegiances, frequent changes of government, and high levels of incumbent turnover— cannot be explained by reference to constituency-level " clientelist rent-seeking. " Politician " slush funds " in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands have been identified as evidence for such clientelist perspectives. However, this paper demonstrates historically that fluctuations of politician-allocated government expenditures bore little relation to the electoral cycle, but were instead driven by the exigencies of holding together fractious governing coalitions. Schemes depended on the availability of windfall gains from aid or natural resource–intensive industries. Vanuatu resisted pressures to inflate slush funds owing to lack of similar windfall earnings, although it, too, has witnessed frequent changes of government, fluid parliamentary allegiances, and characteristic Melanesian " big-man " styles of politics. Difficulties of building effective states in capital-poor countries with a heavy reliance on subsistence agriculture and a narrow tax base encourage a broader personalization of state finances in the region, including use of slush funds. Yet this drains away funds necessary to strengthen state service delivery and threatens a self-reinforcing atrophy of Western Melanesian states. The Atrophied State A Supply-Side Perspective on Politician " Slush Funds " in Western Melanesia (PDF Download Available). Available from: [accessed Aug 15, 2017].
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationPhillipines
    PublisherAsian Development Bank
    Commissioning bodyAsian Development Bank
    ISBN (Print)9789290923138
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


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