Merits and Demerits / Limitations of a Federal State
A Federalisn State is one in which two or more independent states come together by contract to form a united state with division of powers between the federal government and the component units.
A federal state can therefore be described as a government with central authority representing the whole in external affairs and in such internal affairs as are held to be of common interest, and in which there are also provisional or state authorities with powers of legislation and administration within the sphere allotted to them by the constitution.
Federalism is a device for maintaining unity in the midst of diversity where the states are not ready to surrender all powers to the central government.
Merit of Federal State | Government
- Integration of different groups: A federal system brings together different ethnic groups within asystem. Federalism blends unity within different groups.
- The issue of autonomy: It allows each unit to be autonomous and affords them the opportunity to develop at their own pace.
- Federalism brings government closer: Government is brought closer to the people and it increases the sense of belonging and paxticipation. Government programme and activities are made more relevant to the people.
- It eliminates arbitrary rule: This is made possible because the constitution is not easy to amend to satisfy the wishes of a few wealthy and influential individuals.
- Division of functions: Division of functions has made it possible for matters of local interest to be allocated to the state or local governments.
- Reduction In work-load: The burden of central government is reduced because functions are divided.
- Employment opportunities: Since functions are duplicated, employment oppommities are created formore people to be employed in the system.
- Supremacy of the constitution: The supremacy of the constitution in a federal system makes for adherence to democratic principles, rule of law and respect for fundamental rights of man.
- Decision-making process: Opportunities are created for more people to take active part in the decision-making process of their country.
- Grassroot political participation: Greater opportunities are accorded the people of the local areas to participate in the political affairs of the country.
Safeguards the interest of the minorities: The rights of the minorities and other interest groups are recognised and guaranteed in a federal state.
Demerit of a Federal State
- Statism/Regionalism: Individuals prefer to be more loyal to their states and this can affect national unity.
- Possibility of conflict: Since no tier of government can claim absolute authority, it is possible for conflict in the area of performance of functions to occur between the central government and other tiers, e.g. state government or local government.
- Costly to run: Large number of departments and personnel are needed or created in a federal state, thereby making it a costly venture.
- Uneven development: Federalism accommodates the freedom of each unit to develop at its own pace which leads to uneven development.
- Duplication of functions: Duplication of functions can create redundancy which affects productivity.
- Delay in the execution of national issues: Before issues of natiohal concern are concluded and implemented, it needs the approval of all segments of the society. e.g. in the area of amending the constitution, the parliament and the states legislative bodies are involved in the process.
- Rigid constitution: Federal constitutions are usually rigid. This means that the constitution cannot easily be amended to reflect the changing time.
- No uniformity in administration: The autonomy granted the units create imbalances and differences in the area of administration of a federal state.
- Neglect of the minorities: There is the possibility of the minorities being neglected in the areas of appointment to key positions in government, provisions of amenities etc.
- The problem of federal character: Appointments into federal establishments are not always based on merit. The various ethnic nationalities or groups must be considered in the allocation of appointments.
- Ethnic disharmony: There could be distrust among the various ethnic groups in a federal state. This can affect the unity and the very corporate existence of the country.
- Threat of secession: This threat by some units as a factor of divided allegiance or loyalty of citizens poses a great problem to a federal system.
- Unhealthy rivalry: This is very common among the federating units.
- Boundary disputes: This is a common feature in a federal system most especially as it affects the component units.
- Fear of domination: The minorities are always afraid that the majority would dominate them to the extent that Issues of national importance are affected.