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What is a Government?

A government can be defined as the group of people with the authority to govern a country or state.

Branches/Arms of Government

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The Legislature

The Legislature has the function of making laws. This branch has the power to pass, amend and repeal laws. It is made up of one or more assemblies known as 'chambers' or 'houses' where Bills are debated and voted on. A legislature is known as unicameral if it has only one house and bicameral if it has two. In a bicameral legislature, the two chambers are referred to as an Upper House (Senate) and a Lower House (House of Representatives). It must be noted that before any Bill becomes an Act of Parliament or a Law, it must first be signed by the Head of State (President).

The Executive

The Executive branch of government sometimes called the Administration, has the power and authority to administer all the business of government and is made up of the Cabinet with the Prime Minister as the chief executive officer. The functions of the Executive include:

  1. Starting proposals for legislation and taxation.
  2. Creating policies and programs.
  3. Making sure that the policies and programs are carried out.

The Judiciary

The Judiciary consists of a system of courts and is the branch of government that interprets and applies the laws enacted by the Executive and the Legislature. It sees that all laws are applies equally and fairly to all citizens of a country. Laws are intended to regulate the actions and behaviour of individuals and organizations. Some functions of laws are as follows:

  1. To apply sanctions or punishments if laws are broken.
  2. To allow for fair mediation between parties who are in conflict.
  3. To regulate individuals as well as organizations engaged in commercial transactions.
  4. To protect individuals and their property.

Functions of Government

A government manages all the affairs of a country. It is given the right to make decisions and to carry out actions that are necessary for the benefit of the citizens of the country. The government also performs some very important roles:

  • Finance - the government has to raise money in order to carry out the rest of its functions. This money or revenue is largely raised through taxation, trading and from borrowing money. It also has to manage this income as well as to budget how it is going to be spent.

  • Social Services - when members of society are unable to meet their own needs (due to poverty, etc.) governments can provide welfare services as a form of assistance.

  • Education - they seek to provide educational opportunities for citizens regardless of age, gender or ethnicity.

  • Health - provide health services in the form of hospitals, health clinics, medicine, and medical professionals such as doctors, nurses and counselors. They are also responsible for immunization of the population as well as raising public health awareness.

  • Infrastructure & Public Utilities - government develops and maintains permanent infrastructure of a country such as roads, airports, seaports, schools, hospitals and government offices, etc. They are sometimes entrusted with providing utilities such as water, electricity, sewage treatment and telecommunications. It should be noted that the responsibility of providing public utilities responsibilities is sometimes passed to private companies.

  • Employment - employed people adds to productivity and drives the economy which is beneficial to the country. As a result, the government makes sure that the largest possible percentage of its population is working. It also creates employment in the public service such as in education, health and protective services.

  • Maintaining Law & Order - creating laws is an important part of promoting a peaceful and ordered society.

  • Defense - governments are also responsible for providing national security as well as security from external and internal threats. This is why we have the protective services in the form of the army, police service as well as prison officers.

  • International Relations - creating and implementing foreign policies which allow for maintaining good relations when interacting with other countries is important. Good relations allow for beneficial arrangements in the form of trade, finance and the free movement of goods and labour.