October 30, 2020

Advantages and Disadvantages of Decentralization

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Today we want to identify the advantages and disadvantages of decentralization.

Have a quick look at the below WAEC/WASSCE Government past question.

QS. GIVE THREE REASONS AND THREE PROBLEMS FOR THE PRACTICE OF DECENTRALIZATION IN A UNITARY SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT

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You can now have the points to write a blockbuster essay on the advantages and disadvantages of decentralization. These are the points to use for an answer to the above WASSCE Government past question.

Let’s begin with a simple definition of decentralization in government.

Definition of decentralization

Decentralization is the transfer of governmental powers from a higher body (e.g. the central government) to subordinate or lower bodies (e.g. regional coordinating councils or district assemblies) to enable them to take decisions and implement them on behalf of the central government.

 Aspects of decentralization include delegation, devolution and deconcentration.

Under devolution, the central authority transfers some of its powers to local government bodies.

Under deconcentration, a central government establishes various units at different geographical locations and delegates authority to them.

Advantages of decentralization

Here are the major advantages of decentralization. You will have the points for the disadvantages of decentralization right after this section.

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1. Decentralization brings government closer to more people thereby promoting grassroot participation in government.

2. Because decentralization often involves local participation in government, decisions usually suit local needs.

3. Decentralization of government checks unnecessary delays. If decision-making is centralized the central authority would have a lot of issues to handle. But once decision-making is decentralized, decisions can be taken at the local level and this saves time.

4. Decentralization brings the government and the citizens together. Thus, the people see themselves as part of the decision-making process. This fosters unity of purpose.

5. Where power and decision-making are overly centralized, there is always the danger of dictatorship. But where power is distributed among local authorities and district assemblies the danger of dictatorship is reduced.

6. Decentralization also relieves the central administration of too much work load and this makes the central government more efficient.

7. Finally, the practice of decentralization has economic advantages. It is cost-effective. For example, decentralization reduces the cost of travelling from the local level to the centre to find solutions to problems.

NOTE: The opposites of the points above are the disadvantages of centralization.

Disadvantages of decentralization

In spite of the many advantages, we can count at least four disadvantages of decentralization.

1. Decentralization can be expensive to implement. This is because for an effective decentralized system, a large number of local government personnel must be employed and paid. This is just one of those extra costs that come with decentralization.

2. Secondly, where there is too much political decentralization, the people might not have a strong loyalty to the national government and this could cause national disunity and disintegration.

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3. Decentralization can also lead to lack of uniformity in the development of the country. Closely related to this is the likelihood of inequitable distribution of resources to all the areas of the country.

4. Decentralization could result in inefficiency in government. One reason for this is that experienced and qualified administrators would always want to work at the national level, leaving the inexperienced at the grassroots.

NOTE: The opposites of the points above are the advantages of centralization.

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Photo by Wylly Suhendra on Unsplash

Ralph Nyadzi

Ralph has a passion for the teaching and learning of Language and Literature mainly because these two help him to understand and appreciate why people act the way they do. Over the past two decades, he has coached over 5000 students and adult learners to achieve their educational goals. Ralph is the founder and CEO of Cegast Academy.

View all posts by Ralph Nyadzi →

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