Kikalishvili Mamuka

World News


Patronage Politics is Corrupting Papua New Guinea

In Papua New Guinea, a fledgling democracy still evolving, the concept of “kaikaimanism” has gradually taken root within the political system. This term, unique to PNG, describes a political culture where commodities or services are exchanged for political support, often involving an implicit or explicit quid pro quo arrangement. Generally, kaikaimanism encompasses actions driven by personal gain or the expectation of reciprocation. Kaikaimanism, known colloquially as “kaikai man,” is an expression in the Tok Pisin language that refers to the act of transferring products and services for personal benefit without considering the needs of others.

The principle of reciprocity is the foundation of the kaikai man system, which states that a person extends a favor to another in exchange for a benefit in return. It is a commonly used expression among individuals from PNG to denote participating in such activity.

The “kaikai man” wields far more authority than the chosen leader. The kaikai man commands a leap, and the leader inquires about the height because he is unwilling to give up his extravagant way of life for a more common one. They have mastered the art of making the leader rely solely on them. Papua New Guinea’s political landscape has effectively circumvented the system through acts of corruption and fraud. The kaikai man is depleting Papua New Guinea’s national resources and impeding equitable access to opportunities for regular individuals. They symbolize a significant issue that the country must confront. It encourages a self-centered and lazy approach to achieving financial stability and personal success. The breakdown of the law and the source of political instability are attributed to the kaikai man and political cronyism.

Political parties in Papua New Guinea rely heavily on government patronage as a source of power. Participation in politics, whether as a patron or an attendant, remains the primary mode of social advancement for the vast majority of people. From a kaikaimanism point of view, it is extremely crucial to comprehend the functioning system of democratic politics in Papua New Guinea. Patronage democracy is a phenomenon that has emerged as a result of a mix of democratic politics and kaikaimanism. The democratic process has presented the country with significant challenges. Kaikaimanism’s emergence in its operations is one of the factors contributing to the deterioration of the political system.

High school students in Kimbe, West New Britain, Papua New Guinea
High school students in Kimbe, West New Britain, Papua New Guinea. (Asian Development Bank)

However, kaikaimanism is inextricably linked to the country’s democratic political functioning, making it one of the few developing nations that can sustain democracy. It is characteristic of the patronage democracy that exists in Papua New Guinea that government personnel trade benefits based on their own discretion, that politicians use their position to bestow special perks in order to earn support from others, and that voters trade votes in order to acquire patronage. Despite the fact that government officials, politicians, and voters in Papua New Guinean politics exhibit the characteristics of rational actors, this kaikai man politics has resulted in a number of unfavorable consequences, such as the weakening of national capabilities, the reduction of government credibility, and problems with the quality of government. It is very clear that kaikaimanism in politics is a kind of corruption, and it is in direct opposition to the fundamental principles of democracy. Countries like Papua New Guinea still have a long way to go before they can be considered democratically constructed.

Individuals who have even briefly been in Papua New Guinea would have seen the correlation between governmental issues and the prevailing poverty in the nation. The government neglects vital infrastructure. Inefficient bureaucracies impede legal businesses’ operations and allow other corporations to do damage. Poor management characterizes both the health and education systems. Clearly, this is the case; not many people acknowledge the contribution of Papua New Guinea’s politics to government issues. Kaikaimanist politics are the root cause of many of its governance problems. A widely held belief is that the election process is responsible for the political instability that is at the core of the country’s governance issues.

Elections in kaikaimanist polities are characterized by people not casting their ballots for better public policy or based on the effectiveness of the country’s management. They cast ballots for candidates they believed could provide immediate assistance if elected. As a result, MP selection and incentivization prioritize delivering immediate benefits to their respective electorates over effectively managing the national government. Instead of advocating for improved governance, individuals such as Kaikai Man advocate for more localized benefits. Kaikaimanism is a prevalent political ideology. When casting their ballots, the majority of voters seek personalized or localized advantages, while the majority of politicians prioritize providing benefits to their followers at the expense of the national government.

The majority of Papua New Guinean communities consider kaikaimanism to be the fundamental basis for building trust and accountability. Politicians see kaikaimanism as a framework that guarantees responsibility and equilibrium in several domains. Indeed, it forges a link between the marginalized and those in positions of authority. Furthermore, it enhances the development of social structures within society by ensuring that both parties involved, including the donor and the beneficiary, achieve their valued goals. This reciprocal nature meets the expectations of parties, fostering interdependence, a crucial element of political relations. The country’s political system closely follows the kaikai man script, in which voters and politicians work together to maximize expected immediate financial gains. The pursuit of particular advantages weakens the stability of the political process, bureaucratic protocols, and the quality of government. A number of interconnected factors influence the continued use of kaikai man voting. The existence of an uncertain assessment of corruption within a political culture is a fundamental element that drives support for specific and exclusive requests.

In the foreseeable future, it is quite unlikely that Papua New Guinea will abandon its kaikai man politics in favor of any other approach that promotes growth. However, the rise of new social forces in Papua New Guinea provides a reason to be hopeful about the potential for change.