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 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, Italy etc are some of the countries adopting unitary form of government.
Features of a Unitary State
- Best practised in a homogenous state: Unitary system is best practised where there are no sharp differences in religion, language, political belief etc of the entire population.
- Delegation of functions: The central government can delegate power and functions to other component units.
- Small country: The system is easy to practise in a relatively small country where the government has representatives from every ethnic group in the society.
- Parliamentary supremacy: There is parliamentary supremacy in a unitary state. Britain is a good example.
- Flexibility: The constitution of a unitary state is not rigid but 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 such division of powers between the central government and other component units.
- Source of power: The central government still remains the only source through which power flows to other areas.
- Power concentration: All the powers and authorities of the state are concentrated in the hands of the central government.
- No conflict of authority: Since the central government has all the powers conflict of authority would not arise.
- Strong central government: Power rests on the central government.
Reasons for the adoption of a Unitary State
- Homogenous factor: It is best practised in a state where there are no sharp differences 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.
Advantages of a Unitary State
- Less cost: The cost of running a unitary government is relatively lower than the federal government. No duplication of functions is experienced in a unitary state.
- Quick action: Quick action is taken in the areas of decision-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 one. Here, all the powers of governance are concentrated in the hands of one central authority.
- No 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 a Unitary State
- 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.