The Debate: Understanding Federalism


By DR. RIchard K. Mulla


What is federalism?

Legally, a Federal constitution is where the legislative and administrative authority of the National and State Governments are both subordinate to the Constitution, but co-ordinate to one another. In other words, the powers are divided in such a manner that the national government and the state government are each within a sphere co-ordinate and independent. They are mutually exclusive of one another and reciprocally limited in their fields of power. According to Riker (1964:5)

“the essential institutions of federalism are a government of the Federation and a set of governments for the member units, in which both kinds of governments rule over the same territory and people and each kind has the authority to make some decisions independently of the other”…

Federalism equals an ideology that combines shared rule with self-rule.

What is decentralization?

There is no standard definition for decentralization. However, it is generally understood that decentralization is the process by which functions and decision making authority are transferred from the national government to the sub-national government or from one sub-national government to yet a lower one, depending on the tiers of government established in a particular country. Thus there are various models of decentralization all over the world and in fact every country practices decentralization in one form or the other.

The various models of decentralisation:
There are several models of decentralization which include the following:



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