Constituency fund management and electoral success in Solomon Islands
By Terence Wood
Constituency development funds (CDFs) are contentious in Solomon Islands. They’re a significant slice of government spending (10-15 per cent) and can be used largely free of restriction by MPs in their electorates. In theory, they allow MPs to support communities when the state is not up to the task. But the funds come with much potential for misuse.
In late July, the Island Sun published an article on a recent evaluation of CDFs. The evaluation was run by the Solomon Islands government in 2018 and funded by the European Union. Amongst much else, the evaluation scored constituencies based on how well their MP used the CDF between 2014 and 2018. The scores came from impressive work by the evaluation team. They visited every constituency in the country and appear to have randomly sampled communities within constituencies. Constituency scores were derived from the views of people spoken to in communities. Constituencies were scored on several indicators and these were averaged to produce an overall score. The Sun’s article included a table of overall scores. The chart below is a histogram of constituencies’ scores. Scores could range from zero to one, but in reality the lowest score was 0.1 and the highest just over 0.6. The mean and median scores were 0.38. Based on the scores, the evaluation rightly concluded that CDFs aren’t typically being managed well.
Histogram of CDF performance scores
That was the overall conclusion. When I saw the Sun’s article I decided to test something else. I wanted to know whether there was a relationship between quality of CDF use and whether MPs did well in the 2019 elections. Were voters more inclined to vote for MPs who used their CDFs well?
To test this I created a measure of incumbent success in the 2019 elections. If an incumbent won their …read more