Since its inception as a semi-autonomous state in 2005, the South Sudanese government procurement sector has been a booming business. Funded by oil income, the government procurement regimes have become instrumental institutional mechanisms for the allocation of rents within the political marketplace. This type of ‘rentier' politics is often considered to be anti-developmental in mainstream thinking about statebuilding in fragile states, while others argue that rentierism is not growth-retarding per se, but that its impact on development depends on how rents are utilized and reinvested. Taking the latter less-normative approach to rentierism as a starting point, this article begins by identifying patterns of rent allocation that characterized the government procurement sector during the 2005–2011 interim period. Following the political decision to shut down oil production in early 2012, the rent process that had sustained these clientelistic arrangements became suddenly unsustainable. In this context, another cadre of entrepreneurs comprised largely of diaspora returnees with higher technological capabilities and transnational linkages started to gain ground within the government procurement sector, signifying the emergence of a potentially ‘developmental' feature in the rent process. Notwithstanding, while the 2012–2013 austerity period arguably precipitated certain developmental features, it also uprooted the political settlement, which culminated in the December 2013 crisis, pushing the young country back to civil war.