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It may sound like I am blaming voters in Solomon Islands and PNG for their countries’ governance woes. I think voters who vote in search of personal or localised benefits in the two countries are voting perfectly reasonably.
Voters’ decisions are reasonable because the states they live in are weak, while at the same time voters’ needs are acute.
This, in turn, creates perverse political incentives and contributes to the continuation of poor governance and poverty.
There are exceptions of course: voters who strive to find candidates who will help the country, and members of parliament who focus on national issues despite the incentives.
If given cognisant of the realities of Solomon Islands and PNG’s political economies, aid can also help to provide services and to ameliorate human suffering for the time being.
In the short-term, aid can help if it’s given well.
The problem is that individual voters, or families, or communities, or even electorates, don’t control the quality of national governance.
Voters need something from elections, and when the government can’t deliver it through better policy and better services, all they can hope for is direct assistance from MPs.
You might ask why voters don’t vote for better governance to solve this problem.
However, these were formed in a very particular environment associated with the industrial revolution and the rise of national social movements.
In the mostly rural, fragmented countries of Solomon Islands and PNG, nothing equivalent exists. Because Solomon Islands and PNG are poor, underdeveloped countries, people vote for members of parliament who they think will help them directly.