Concepts of federalism [Part 2]
By: Poiya Isaac Lagu, (LLM).
Last Friday, the 22nd November 2019; I wrote about the meaning, types, and a few advantages of federalism there-to. Today, I would like to continue with the advantages and disadvantages. So that you can follow up and clearly understand or learn in a nut shell the concepts or notion of federalism and the rationale behind federal system of government and they include the following;
It is suitable for a larger nation (s) or Country (s); a federal system is ideally suitable for big Countries. It can be easier to govern or administer several smaller States than one large nation alone. Example in India; there are thirty five (35) States and the largest State being Uttar Pradesh, Capital of Lucknow, Language; Hindi with seventy one (71) Districts. And the smallest States being; Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Lakshadweep, all with one (1) District each. Large nations work better when they are divided up into smaller federal units as it makes governing them easier. What do you think about the Republic of South Sudan? Would you opt for the creation of more States or revert to the ten former States or the former regional districts created in South Sudan or the regions-thus the three former regions of Bahr -el-Ghazal, Upper Nile and Equatoria or would go by the current thirty two States? In which direction are you leading the sons and daughters of South Sudan; thus- is it in the east, west, south or north?
Diversity; this means-a range of many people who are very different from each other. Thus the different ethnic communities or cultures of the people of one Country. A federal system encourages diversity within a Country. Different federal units may have different ways of doing things or culture or ethnicity, but they will all be respected equally without discrimination. Hence, federalism creates a need for a greater diversity and choice among people.
Ability to choose. It enables people to choose the best place for them to live; citizens of a federal Country can choose which region’s or States’ way of doing things suits them best- and then move to live or work in the region or unit or State that best suits their life style, where they feel they are comfortable and happy with and they follow the laws and procedures of such a State or region properly laid down in the federal laws.
Citizens become more in touched with their Governors and state leaders; it can be hard to feel connected to the people governing you when they live many hundreds of miles away in the headquarter of a central authority. However, under a federal government, your federal Governors will always live in your region. Federal Governors also have a better understanding of their regions; it is very difficult for a centralized government to have an in depth knowledge of all of the regions of the Country. A federal government, will have an excellent knowledge of the regions or States.
Constitutionality; a federal system of government is not one that aims to overthrow the central government. No! Rather, all federal governments are answerable to the Country’s’ central authority. So, in this way; a federal system of government provides unity for her people as well as diversity. Powers are constitutionally entrenched and may not be altered by a unilateral decision neither of the States nor the national government. The Country becomes unified under a common Constitution or other legal systems.
People have moreand strong power; when people can vote to change federal laws, or when they can vote to replace federal Governors, they have more immediate power over the issues that concern them and their regions or units or States in decision making.
Disadvantages of a Federal System of Government;
Prevent uniformity of laws; states are independent, they adopt any policy, has many laws, creates problems to people travelling to the other states time to time. Example in United States of America. This can be illustrated in the case of Gonzales vs. Raich, (2005), U.S. 545, where the argument was about the constitutional division of powers between national government and the state to make laws. The Supreme Court upheld the application of the Federal laws. Further, Held; that the Federal government has powers to regulate commerce among several states / inter-states and to make laws which shall be necessary and proper for execution.
There is a difference, especially one connected with unfair treatment- thus disparity in the level of government; some components of states in a federal units tend to develop faster than others probably due to the fact that they have good administrators or skilled leaders or natural resources such as oil, gold and copper or may be, more favored by the central government in the allocation of resources. There shall be a wide disparity between rich and poor states and growing regional disparities in economic prosperity.
Slow down decision –making process; because the two levels of government would have to agree on an issue, thus central and the state, especially in matters that fall into the concurrent list or powers and which would need the agreement of both the central and the state governments, before it can be implemented. For the case of south Sudan, these concurrent powers are well provided in the Schedule (C) of the 2011, transitional Constitution as amended. It includes; economic and social development, trade, commerce, industry and industrial development, financial and economic policies and planning, natural resources and forestry, health policies, manufacturing licenses, river transport, empowerment of women, gender policies, environmental management, conservation and protection, disaster preparedness, management and relief and epidemics control, repatriation and resettlement among others. Although all these are under the decentralized system of government-thus a quasi-federal practically not federal per se. ‘by itself’.
Duplication of Institutions-thus to make an exact copy of something. This is a dishonest behavior that is intended to make somebody believe something is true; the existence of State governments in federal states creates avenues for the setting up of legislature, executive, judiciary and other institutions in all the federal States apart from those at the central level. The duplication may lead to waste of human, financial and material resources.
Difficulty in co-existence; most federal Countries are faced with the ethnic problems, making it difficult for the diverse groups to co-exist, leading to bitterness among federal units.
Method of power distribution cannot be perfect; meaning what is for a State cannot become for a national government. Example in the U.S.A. in 1789, now two hundred thirty years ago, and federal government was handicapped.
Conflict of authority; in a federal government, federal Governors and the central Government may become engaged in conflicts of authority about what is best for a given region of the Country. This can be illustrated in the case of the National Education Bill, No; 83 / 1995, South Africa. In this case, the national speaker referred a dispute about the Constitutionality of certain provision of the National Education Policy Bill. The argument was that; the bill interferes with the executive authority of the Provincial political heads of education. Held; “the bill was not inconsistent with the Constitution on any of the grounds. Provinces are free to develop and implement their own education policies, they have no obligation to comply with any demand that might be made by the minister, the Council or Committee for them to implement national policy. They may only be required to amend if that conflicts the national policy”.
Conclusion: In the words of; Durga Das Basu, “Introduction to the Constitution of India”, (2015), 2nd edition, LexisNexis, Page. 55-56. “That the oldest model of the federal Constitution, of all federal Constitutions in the world started with that of United States in (1787), and all systems of federation must conform with the nomenclature there-with. A few Countries might stand the test of federalism perhaps Switzerland and Australia. The Constitutional system of India is basically federal, but with striking unitary features”.Federalism, therefore in my own understanding; a term that originated from the Federalists, is the concept that the governmental sovereignty is divided between the central governing or national authority or power, and another political unit or region, such as States. This is also exactly the American and Nigerian government systems which have a national government, and the State government, while for South Africa, they have the national government, Provincial and the local spheres-thus Cooperative government. There are some restrictions on the national government which are listed in the Constitution in Articles 1, 2, and 3 of U.S.A. There are however, no restrictions on the State governments, and in fact, the Constitution only enables the State governments and guarantees them rights that are not listed in the Constitution. So, there are various types of federalism including dual federalism, cooperative federalism, creative federalism, fiscal federalism, among others. It is your duty as citizens of this Country-South Sudan to choose which system of government is suitable for you and your future generations; for a united, prosperous, transparent, strong, democratic, stable, accountable and peaceful Government.
The writer is a practicing Advocate & Commissioner for Oaths, Juba!