Lant Pritchett has a working paper called “Is India a Flailing State? Detours on the Four Lane Highway to Modernization,” which is wonderful wordplay on the more commonly used failed state. In it, he defines a flailing state as one where “the elite institutions at the national (and in some states) level remain sound and functional but that this head is no longer reliably connected via nerves and sinews to its own limbs.”
I was reminded of this new categorization when I read about the Nepalese government’s failure to spend any of the $4.1 billion donated after the earthquakes four months ago. Reuters reports that 9,000 people died in the quakes and that 10% of the population is still “living in plastic tents, preyed upon by flies and mosquitoes, with muddy paths and no drains.”
So what has this incredibly dysfunctional government been doing instead? First, they cannot agree on a plan of aid distribution and second, the government is spending all of its time trying to “pass a contentious constitution that will create a new political system and divide the country into new regions, a decision that has led to deadly clashes.” I’m guessing those two points are closely related. In short, the government is so divided that they have decided to focus on politicking and sowing political violence rather than distribute the money to the tens of thousands that desperately need it.
Makes me think that Nepal is a flailing state in its dreams. We apparently need a new category between failed and flailing.