The political economy of pork barrelling in the Philippines

Event details

PSC Seminar

Date & time

Tuesday 04 March 2014


PSC Reading Room, Hedley Bull Centre (130), corner of Garran Road and Liversidge Street, ANU
ANU Canberra


Ronald Holmes


Kerrie Hogan
+61 2 6125 2167


Pork barrelling refers to the distribution of highly divisible benefits to specific populations, the cost of which is shared by the general population through taxation.   Argued to be cost- inefficient and vulnerable to predation, pork barrelling has nonetheless been practiced in many countries.   The intensity, persistence and outcomes of pork barrelling, however, vary from country to country. In general, the practice is found to be more predominant in countries at lower levels of economic development.

 Pork barrelling has existed in the Philippines since 1922.   Within this span of time, and particularly in recent decades, the modes of pork-barrel distribution have changed. In the period before the 1972 declaration of martial law, it was formerly dominated by traditional club goods (i.e. public infrastructure) that were targeted to groups or constituencies. Since the fall of the martial law regime in 1986, however, it has evolved towards the greater dominance of private or individual-focused goods and services dispensed by legislators and the President through their own authorized "slush funds."   It is puzzling that this shift in the forms of pork dispensed has come about since the transition from authoritarian rule, at a point in which presidential term limits removed the imperative to campaign for re-election.  In addition, there has been a profusion of civil society involvement in the public realm and greater opposition to the persistence of 'old-style', patronage-oriented politics. Moreover, pork spending has steadily increased since the late 1980s to the extent that such expenditures have caused significant distortions in the budget allocated for programmatic expenses.

This presentation will examine the factors that account for the persistence of pork barrelling in the Philippines, specifically accounting for the reasons for the changes in the forms and levels of pork spending after 1986. It will address the puzzle of why the pork barrel has become both more highly elaborated and more important in this period.

About the Speaker

Ronald Holmes started his PhD program in the Department of Political and Social Change in July 2013.   He has been a member of the Department of Political Science of De La Salle University Manila since January 1985.  He also heads the research organization Pulse Asia Research Incorporated since 2008.                                                                                                 

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