Advantages and Disadvantages of Unitary System of Government
Unitary government may be defined as one in which all powers and authorities for the exercise of the functions of running a state are concentrated in the hands of a single central government. In this respect, powers are not shared between the central government and any other component units.
Infact, the unitary constitution has succeeded in depositing all the powers of governance with the central government. However, the central government can delegate powers to the component units created by it. These powers are exercised in line with the wishes of the central government.
Unitarianism is the principle guiding a unitary constitution. Britain, France, ltaly etc are some of the countries adopting unitary form of government.
Advantages Of Unitarianism Government
- The tendency nowadays is to move towards a unitary system and this is because it has certain advantages over other systems of government.
- A unitary system of government is suitable for a country with a relatively small area and homogeneous population.
- A unitary government helps to reduce waste by avoiding duplication of offices and services.
- The cost of administration in a unitary state is relatively low.
- The unitary government is powerful as there is only one central government whose authority cannot be questioned or challenged by any other levels of government. Since the other governments (where they exist at all) are completely dependent on the central government, they cannot demand special rights and privileges, which may create political instability.
- It is relatively easy to draw up a unitary constitution, as conflicts do not often arise over division of power between the central and state or regional governments.
- In a unitary state, conflicts of jurisdiction are avoided.
- There is uniformity of law, policy and administration, which can be maintained throughout the state.
- A unitary system of government encourages loyalty to the nation-state rather than to the local units. It fosters the spirit of oneness and national consciousness since all the citizens look up to only one government.
- This form of government is suitable for taking quick decisions in times of emergency. The central government does not have to consult any other body or government before it takes decisions.
- The perennial problems of state creation and protection of minority interests which are common in federal states rarely arise in unitary states.
- A unitary state is largely free from the problem of secession as there is generally a sense of belonging in the system. The component units also lack the capacity to take on a powerful central government.
- The unitary form of government promotes rapid development as the country’s resources are in the hands of a single government.
Advantages of a Unitary State
- Less cost: The cost of runnin g a unitary government is relatively lower than the federal govemment. No duplication of functions is experienced in a unitary state.
- Quick action: Quick action is taken in the areas o fdecision-making and execution. The central government alone takes decision.
- Flexible constitution: The method of amending the constitution is relatively easy because the constitution is flexible. This can enhance quick political and economic advancement.
- Promotes strong government: A unitary state is stronger than a federal state. In unitarianism system of government, all the powers of governance are concentrated in the hands of one central authority unlike federalism where power are concentrate in two or three levels of government.
- Zero conflict of authority: There can be no conflict of authority or confusion regarding responsibility for work to be performed, since the central government has all the powers.
- The Absence of red-tape: It is less bureaucratic as opposed to the federal system. Red-tapism slows down action in a federal state but not in a unitary state.
- Unity: Absence of tribalism or sectionalism can bring about unity in a country.
- Few personnel in government: In a Unitary system of government, not too many officials are in government. This is because functions are not duplicated as obtained in a federal system. It eliminates redundancy.
Disadvantages of Unitarian Government
The unitary government has a number of disadvantages
- The concentration of power in a single government is dangerous and may lead to dictatorship, especially in developing countries where the leaders do not usually entertain any opposition to their rule. For example, the constitution of Namibia was easily amended in 1999 by the then president, Sam Nujoma, to allow him run for an unprecedented third term of five years. It would be an uphill task for such an idea to materialize in a federal state where an amendment to the constitution would require approval by two-thirds majority of the two houses of the Parliament.
- A Unitary government is not suitable for a large, heterogeneous country with different nationalities and religions and widely differing economic, social and political interests. It is, for instance, intriguing that a country like Sudan which was more or less two countries in one (the Islamic and Arab North and the largely Christian and animist South populated by black Africans) should operate a unitary system of government for a long period. This political mismatch is to a large extent, responsible for the intractable political crises in the country which culminated in the creation of an independent state of South Sudan on July 9, 2011 after a long civil war.
- The central legislature is often overburdened with numerous local matters which present the national legislature from making laws that will promote national development. Local matters are better handled by the local people themselves.
- The central government may be too remote from the local people. The political leaders at the centre may lack adequate knowledge of local conditions and problems.
- Unitarism hinders the development of an enduring local government system since unitarism tends to repress local initiatives and interest in public affairs. Britain may, however, be an exception in this regard given the highly developed local government in the country.
- A unitary system of government causes unnecessary delays and bureaucratic bottlenecks, as local authorities cannot act promptly.
- A unitary constitution does not have special provisions on minority rights and as such, it does not adequately protect the interests of minority groups.
- The resources of the country may not be used for the even development of the whole country. Since there are no powerful forces to fight for local interests, national resources may be deployed to develop a few urban centres.
- As the constitution of a unitary state is generally flexible, it may also experience some of the problems of a flexible constitution such as the imposition of unpopular decisions on the people by the government.
Limitations of Unitary System of Government
- Poor attention to the local areas: The attention given to the people in the local areas may be poor.
- Dictatorship: A unitary government may encourage dictatorship as a result of power concentration in the hands of a single authority.
- Small and homogenous state: A unitary government can only work in a small and homogenous state.
- Development: Development of the various units of the country could be slow and unprogressive.
- Poor representation in government: The system does not encourage wider representation of the people in the government of their country.
- Centre of decision-making: The centre of decision-making is very far from the area of implementation.
- Overloaded with functions: This is as a result of the concentration of powers in a single central authority.
- The issue of minority: The minority could be oppressed and dominated by the majority tribes.
- Tension: Tension could mount among the various sections in a country over claims that a particular tribe is controlling the government.
- Unemployment: Unemployment rate could be high in a unitary state as a result of low duplication of functions.