Unitary System of Government | Definition | Features | Pros & Cons

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Unitary System of Government | Definition | Features | Merits & Demerits

Unitary System of Government | Definition | Features | Pros & Cons
System of Government

Meaning of Unitarian Government

The word ‘unitary’ is an adjective derived from the term ‘unit’, which means one. A unitary government is therefore a form of government with one legally recognized government. There is a single central government, which derives its powers from a unitary constitution.

It is possible to have some subordinate governments in a unitary state. But in such a situation, the central government is sovereign whereas the governments of the component units are not sovereign. They are completely dependent on the central government to which they owe their existence.

The unitary government is the commonest and most popular form of government as several modern states are organized under the unitary system. The most notable examples are France, Britain and Italy. Ghana is also an example of a country practicing Unitary system of government. All African countries except Nigeria and a few others are essentiale unitary in form.

What are Reason for the adoption of a Unitary Government?

  • Homogenous factor: It is best practised in a state where there are no sharp diffenences in language, religion, political belief etc.
  • Small country: Unitary system is easy and best adopted in a relatively small country.
  • For coherent and efficient administration: The central government can efficiently prevent waste and duplication both in human and material resources.
  • Control and accountability factor: Accountability and control are best initiated in a unitary state because it involves a single authority, hence, one of the reasons for the adoption of a unitary state.
  • Adequate support to the government: This form of government is suitable and adopted where the people can give adequate support to the sole authority.
  • Absence of tribal grouping: Since there is no marked difference in tribes, unitary system is adopted because no tribe will ever think of dominating others.
  • Management of functions: The central government can adequately manage functions and at the same time monitor effectively functions delegated to other component units.
  • Lack of marked economic inequalities: In a unitary state, there is lack of marked economic inequalities among different sections of the country.
  • Limited human and natural resources: These are some of the reasons for the adoption of a unitary state.
  • National Consciousness: Encouragement of national consciousness and cohesion is another added reason for the adoption of a unitary state.

Features of Unitary Government

  • Concentration of power at the centre (central authority).
  • The constitution only recognizes the central government in the control of state power.
  • The regions/states lack the power to make laws on their own. Laws are made for the whole state by the central parliament.
  • The powers being exercised by the regions/states are delegated to them by the central government.
  • The central power can increase or reduce or even withdraw the delegated power to the regions/states without any prior notice.
  • The regions/states are subordinates to the central authority.

Pros and Cons of Unitary Form of Government

Merits of Unitary Government

The advantages of unitary government include:

  • It is a very effective system of government. The centralization of power often makes the regional or state governments to always be effective in their performance because they know that the central political authority has constitutional power to withdraw the power given to them. Therefore, regions or states will always be on their toes to carryout their functions religiously because their administrative performance may determine their continued patronage by the central government, which can reduce or increase or terminate the regional powers at will.
  • It is flexible: This is because unitary system can easily modify and adjust the organizational structure of the state (country) if the need arises in order to ensure effective administration.
  • It is cheap and simple: It avoids duplication of political institutions, which may likely be expensive to operate.
  • Unitary system is less cumbersome than federalist system of government because power is centralized, and no region or state can claim any exclusive power, which makes the problem of intergovernmental rivalry unlikely.
  • It ensures quick decision making.
  • There is also unified administration: This does not prevent wasteful application of government funds but also promotes unity in government through uniformity of laws and policies in the administration of the entire nation.

Demerits of Unitary System of Government

The disadvantages of Unitary Government are hereby listed below.

  • It undermines effective administration of local govemment. This is because political administration in contemporary time. demands that ‘central governments have to tackle so many complex problems, national and international, that they have neither the initiative nor the time to devote to local affairs‘.
  • It can only be operated in small countries, and where multiplicity of ethnic groups is less visible. There is possibility that it will fail in countries that have extremely heterogeneous groups.
  • Uniformity of laws in unitary system may sometimes ignore peculiarities of each of the regions in public administration and such situation may lead to mal-administration.
  • Regional governments may remain less creative in the exercise of power because they know that such power is only lent to them and the owner of the power from them, even without any previous formal notice.
  • It may attract despotism due to centralization of power at the centre, in which the regions appear as preys that can be consumed by the central political authority.
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