Dialogues on Distribution of Powers and Responsibilities in Federal Countries

Dialogues on Distribution of Powers and Responsibilities in Federal Countries

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 56
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    Dialogues on Distribution of Powers and Responsibilities in Federal Countries
    Book Description:

    These lively, timely, and accessible dialogues on federal systems provide a comparative snapshot of each topic and include comparative analyses, glossaries of country-specific terminology, and a timeline of major constitutional events. Countries considered include Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States. Whether you are a student or teacher of federalism, working in the field of federalism, or simply interested in the topic, these booklets will prove to be an insightful, brief exploration of the topic at hand in each of the featured countries. Contributors include Sarah Byrne (Université de Fribourg), Marcelo Piancastelli de Siqueira (Institute for Applied Economic Research, Brasillia), Hugues Dumont (Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis, Brussels), J.Isawa Elaigwu (Institute of Governance and Social Research, Jos), Thomas Fleiner (Université de Fribourg), Xavier Bernadi Gil (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona), Ellis Katz (International Association of Centers for Federal Studies, PA), Nicolas Lagasse (Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis, Brussels), Clement Macintyre (University of Adelaide), George Mathew (Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi), Manuel González Oropeza (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), Hans-Peter Schneider (Universität Hannover), Richard Simeon (University of Toronto), Clara Velasco (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona), Ronald L. Watts (Queen's University), and John Williams (Australian National University, Canberra).

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7307-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Australia: A Quiet Revolution in the Balance of Power
    (pp. 3-5)

    Despite very few formal constitutional changes over the past century, significant revisions effectively have been made to the distribution of powers and responsibilities in the Australian federation. The national sphere of government, or Commonwealth, has gradually acquired more powers at the expense of the states in order to meet the changing role and responsibilities of government. Australia's federal system thus has evolved, not so much through deliberate amendment, but as a result of judicial interpretation of the Constitution and deft political manoeuvring.

    Australia is simultaneously one of the youngest democracies and one of the oldest federations. In 1901, the six...

  5. Belgium: Continuing Changes in a New Federal Structure
    (pp. 6-8)

    The transformation of Belgium from a unitary to a federal state is quite a recent phenomenon from a legal point of view. It began in 1970 and has continued in successive waves in 1980, 1988-89, 1993, and 2001. Despite the recent changes, there continues to be political pressure for greater devolution of power away from the national government. At present, no one would hazard a guess where this movement will end and what form the result will take.

    The changes in Belgium since 1970 have certain similarities to the evolution of the European Union, but in reverse. Both were pragmatic...

  6. Brazil: Federation Building and Social Welfare
    (pp. 9-11)

    Brazil has a vast territory and a complex and financially asymmetric federal system. The country has been trying to achieve economic stability, while struggling against entrenched social inequalities and regional disparities. The objectives of the present constitution are the consolidation of democracy, decentralization of government, and improvement of the social conditions of the population. Constitutional rules have been changing over time, largely to adapt to the changing economic context. However, Brazil’s republican federalism as a form of government organization has shown remarkable stability.

    Attempts to implement a federal form of government can be traced back to 1831. However, it was...

  7. Canada: Competition within Cooperative Federalism
    (pp. 12-14)

    You will only get a partial picture of “who does what” if you read the Canadian Constitution Act of 1867. The text of sections 91 and 92 of the Act defines the division of powers and responsibilities in Canada, but gives only a partial picture of the real balance of powers. The division of powers is constantly in flux. The weight of influence has swung from federal dominance, to classical dualist federalism, to a reassertion of federal influence, to the present, in which two powerful orders of government use many jurisdictional, bureaucratic, financial and political levers to shape policy over...

  8. Germany: Länder Implementing Federal Legislation
    (pp. 15-17)

    Germany’s federal system is characterized by the principle of “strict separation” of responsibilities between the federation and theLänder(i.e., the constituent states). Each order is accountable for its own decisions, even when a federal law delegates power toLandparliaments. To enforce this principle, the Federal Constitutional Court (FCC) has prohibited mixed administration and mixed financing. However, the German federation is not based on two completely distinct and separate columns of federal andLandpowers with no connections. Instead there is a concentration of legislative functions in the federal government and of administrative powers in theLänder.TheLänder...

  9. India: Continuity and Change in the Federal Union
    (pp. 18-20)

    For more than a decade, India has been experiencing pressures for decentralization, with the states demanding greater say in, and control over economic development. Subnational units in India are expected to contribute to the strength of the country as a whole, but recently the states have been protesting any political interference from the central government in New Delhi. The states have also taken exception to the accumulation of taxation powers by the national government, which has left them financially weakened. These new political pressures are a reversal of the previous trend, which has seen a gradual centralization of powers and...

  10. Mexico: A Historic Election Brings Pressures for Decentralization
    (pp. 21-23)

    After more than 150 years with a federal system, Mexico has reached a consensus that its highly centralized allocation of powers must be reformed. In response to the historic elections in 2000, the states are seeking more powers in order to foster democracy and pluralism. However, in this dialogue between the federal government and 31 state governments, there is an emerging third party that asks for more autonomy and equality: local governments in the 2,300 municipalities. There are also concerns about the limited status of the Federal District, Mexico City, which encompasses one fifth of the total population of the...

  11. Nigeria: Over-Centralization after Decades of Military Rules
    (pp. 24-26)

    From its independence in 1960 until a new democratic government took office in 1999, Nigeria developed into a highly centralized federal state. The devastating civil war in the late 1960s, followed by decades of military rule, has left most government powers in the hands of the national government. Now, many Nigerians are concerned about over-centralization of powers in a country that has over 400 linguisticcultural groups and a population estimated at about 130 million, with a high growth rate of 2.6 percent.

    Nigeria’s federation emerged through a process of conquest and charters granted to British companies from the middle of...

  12. Spain: A Unique Model of State Autonomy
    (pp. 27-29)

    The federal model established by the Spanish Constitution of 1978 is being widely questioned today. All political parties accept the need to reform the Constitution, although there is no agreement on the scope of the reforms. Some states, in Spain named “Autonomous Communities,” have begun to make changes to their “Statutes of Autonomy,” acts that define the powers and institutions of the constituent entities. Some of these reforms are not only ambitious - especially in Catalonia and in the Basque Country - but also rather controversial.

    The Spanish Constitution is unusual in many ways. First, in spite of not being...

  13. Switzerland: Seeking a Balance between Shared Rule and Self-Rule
    (pp. 30-32)

    Switzerland is a notably decentralized federation that employs several constitutional devices to resist any shift of powers to the central government. While most federal countries have shown a tendency to centralize in response to globalization, cantonal and local governments in Switzerland still control the majority of government expenditures and can influence important national policy decisions. Now the cantons are experimenting with cooperative federalism, in order to participate in the decision-making processes of the federal government.

    Switzerland, a country with four official languages and two historically conflicting religious communities, adopted its federal constitution in 1848, after a civil war. It became...

  14. The United States of America: A Federal Government of Limited Powers
    (pp. 33-35)

    International developments are having a significant impact on the ways in which all governments function and the United States is no exception. Global trade agreements, the demand for human rights, and even the fight against international terrorism have all created increasing pressures to centralize government responsibilities. For the United States, these pressures are causing new changes to American federalism, which is at the heart of its constitutional structure.

    American federalism is a delegation of limited powers and responsibilities to the federal government, with all other powers reserved for the states. The original American states were fully functioning constitutional bodies before...

  15. Comparative Reflections
    (pp. 36-38)

    A constitutional distribution of legislative and executive authority and finances among the general and constituent unit governments has constituted a fundamental, indeed defining, aspect in the design and operation of these federations. But while a constitutional distribution of authority, responsibilities and finances among the orders of government has been a fundamental feature common to them, there has been an enormous variation in the constitutional form and scope and in the operation of the distribution of powers in different federations.

    Different geographic, historical, economic, security, demographic, linguistic, cultural, intellectual and international factors have affected the strength of the common interests and...

  16. Glossary
    (pp. 39-46)
  17. Contributors
    (pp. 47-48)
  18. Participating Experts
    (pp. 49-54)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 55-57)