Centralisation | Centralization Definition, Merits & Demerits
Centralisation refers to a system of government or administration in which major decision making is centralized at the centre in the hands of central government officials or administrators.
Major decisions are taken at the headquarters and sent down to the regional or branch offices for implementation.
In consequence, lower level governments or units have little influence in the policy process. Indeed, political leaders, at the local or regional levels, hold their office at the pleasure of central government officials.
Ghana, for example, is a country that has a highly centralized system of government perhaps because it is a unitary state. The Regional Ministers are appointed by the President of the country. He can also remove them at will. As such, they owe their allegiance to the President whom they help to implements his political programmes.
Reasons for the Adoption of Centralisation Form of Government
- Best practised in a homogenous state: This system is best practised where there are no sharp differences in religion, language, beliefs, etc.
- Relatively Small country: It is easy to practise in a relatively small country where the government has representatives from every ethnic group in the society.
- Delegation of functions: The central government can delegate powers and functions to other component units.
- Power concentration: All the powers and authorities of the state are concentrated in the hands of the central government.
- Flexibility: The constitution of a centralised state is flexible.
- Power to modify the constitution: The central government may have the power to modify the constitution in the same process used to pass laws. Britain adopts this method.
- No constitutional division of power: There is no constitutional division of power between the central government and other component units.
- Strong central government: This is because it has all the powers of the state and the people gives support to it only.
- No conflict of authority: Since all the powers are in the hands of the central government, conflict in the exercise of these functions will not arise.
Advantages of Centralisation System of Government
- Decision making powers: Sometimes, there may be the need to withdraw decision making powers from subordinate units to make for a more coherent and efficient administration.
- Cost: The cost of running a centralised administration is relatively lower than the decentralized administration. The reason is that functions are not duplicated.
- It makes for quick action: Quick action is made in the areas of decision making and implementation. The central government alone makes decision.
- Flexible constitution: The method of amending the constitution is relatively easy because the constitution is flexible.
- Makes for a strong government: A centralised state is stronger than a decentralised one, because all the powers are concentrated in the hands of single central authority.
- No conflict of authority: There can be no conflict of authority or confusion regarding responsibility for work to be done.
- Coordination of functions: Centralization makes for effective coordination of functions in both human and material resources.
- Prevention of waste: It prevents waste, inefficiency and a high level of indiscipline in both the civil and public services.
- Less bureaucratic: Centralization is less bureaucratic and simple to operate.
- Unity: A centralized goverment unites different groups of diverse opinions and interests in the society.
Disadvantages of Centralisation System of Government
- Remoteness: It makes for remoteness of decision-making centre from where the decisions are to be implemented.
- Rigidity and inflexible response: It may lead to rigidity and inflexible response to local needs and problems.
- Stagnation: Centralized government may also make for stagnation at the local level, because the centre cannot quickly respond to the problems.
- Dictatorship: Centralization may encourage dictatorship in the system.
- Small territories: It is only workable in small territories. This system may not work in countries like Nigeria, Brazil and USA.
- Homogenous society: Centralization can also work only in a homogenous society, where differences in culture, tribes, etc, are not well pronounced.
- Interest groups: It is not possible for centralization to accommodate every interest group in the system.
- Amendment of the constitution: The central government alone can easily amend the constitution for selfish purposes.
- Political participation: The people are not politically active and adequately involved in the decision making process of the country.
- Secession: The concentration of power may favour a particular tribe or group and this may create bad blood in the system. The result of this could be secession or break away of a part.