The Politics of Constituency Development Funds (CDFs) in Comparative Perspective
30 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2013
Date Written: 2013
A Constituency Development Fund (CDF) is a government budget allocation mechanism that channels a specific portion of the national budget to the constituencies of Members of Parliament (MPs) to finance development projects. The practice, which has spread across developing countries mainly in Asia and Africa since mid-1980s, can be characterised as a distinctive form of social development because MPs are vested with a degree of authority in selecting projects. In this light, CDFs provide a unique analytical lens to examine the power dynamics between various political actors and institutions and more broadly, the nature of democracy in developing countries. This paper examines whether CDFs empower the legislature vis-à-vis the executive and, if so, why the executive gives up power to the legislature by comparing the interactions between CDFs and politics in seven countries in Asia and Africa. By proposing a typology of the politics of CDFs by identifying two major dimensions, 1) power balance between the executive and the legislature and 2) regime change, this paper argues that a CDF introduced following a regime change is likely to be a strategic tool for the executive to dissolve patronage politics controlled by former leaders and to gain support from MPs to run the new government effectively, while a CDF introduced without a regime change tends to be a preventive measure of the executive to avert a risk of losing MPs’ support.
Keywords: Constituency Development Fund, electoral politics in developing countries, Pakistan, the Philippines, India, Ghana, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania
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