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Public funds directly allocated to elected officials for use in their electorates are often referred to as Constituency Development Funds (CDFs). Since the turn of the millennium the use of such schemes has spread to well over 20 countries. The institutionalisation of CDFs in developing countries has generated controversy, with supporters and critics alike arguing over the efficiency and effectiveness of CDFs as a policy tool for development.
In recent years, CDFs in Solomon Islands (and in its close neighbour Papua New Guinea) have risen to globally unprecedented levels: CDFs now make up around one third of the development budget in Solomon Islands, or between 10-15 percent of total budget outlays. As elsewhere, CDFs have generated considerable controversy in Solomon Islands. In addition, CDFs have been a bone of contention over many years between Solomon Islands governments and the donor community, including Australia.
The project run through seeks to provide a comparative evidence base for how CDFs are used at the constituency level in Solomon Islands. It aims to examine the CDF spending process from planning and decision making through to how projects are implemented and their impact on households and communities. The project is examining the type of pressures that managing CDFs place on MPs, and how public attitudes and expectations are affected by CDF spending. Fieldwork was undertaken between April and July 2017 in three constituencies in Solomon Islands. Drawing on data from the most recent national elections (2014), in each constituency the research team visited locations where the MP had strong, mixed and weak political support.
The research involved in-depth interviews, community focus groups, and surveys. In total, over 300 individuals were interviewed or surveyed. Analysis of the data collected during fieldwork is currently underway. It is expected that this will provide fresh insights into the operation of CDFs in Solomon Islands, contributing to the growing international literature on this subject, as well as to a better-informed public debate in Solomon Islands itself.