In Search of White Elephants: the emergence of a clientelist and neo-patrimonialist state in Timor-Leste

Event details

SSGM Seminar Series

Date & time

Tuesday 26 November 2013


Lecture Theatre 2, Hedley Bull Centre (130), corner of Garran Road and Liversidge Street, ANU
ANU Canberra


James Scambary – PhD Candidate, SSGM & Research Consultant


Louana Gaffey
+61 2 6125 8244


After little more than a decade after independence, the small island state of Timor-Leste is exhibiting some of the hallmarks of much more advanced South-East Asian states. Since 2008, utilising its considerable oil fund reserves, the government has embarked on a major infrastructure development program. However, despite a complex regulatory regime to safeguard the quality and transparency of public spending, these systems have been routinely bypassed by executive style decision-making and a variety of informal devices. Public funds have been channelled to clientelist networks via often contentious infrastructure projects or state employment, setting the foundations for an emergent clientelist and neo-patrimonialist state. This paper details the emergence of this state; how a command style of government and complex systems of reciprocal obligation embedded in an array of parallel, informal networks have served to undermine the foundations of a Weberian rational legal state, with potentially critical consequences for development, democracy and the rule of law.

About the Speaker

James Scambary is a research consultant and a PhD candidate at SSGM at ANU. Since 2006, James has been conducting research on themes surrounding informal security groups, communal conflict and organised crime in Timor-Leste for a range of agencies including the New York Social Science Research Council, AusAID and the World Bank.

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