Some people believe that the major functions of government are maintaining law and order; protecting a country against external aggression, and providing basic infrastructure.
But in a modern world where technology and modern economics are a major discussions at international gatherings, the government has more elaborate roles to play.
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Besides, why does a government exist? What is expected of the government? In this post, we will explore the responsibilities of a government in modern society.
What are the functions of government in a modern society?
The number function of a government is to govern a country by applying the best forms of developmental reforms.
To ensure smooth governance, the branches of government and agencies of government must diligently play their part.
For instance, the legislature must make laws that will positively impact its people, the executive that implements the law must follow the law, and the judiciary must correctly interpret what the laws of the land say.
Therefore, state-owned companies and corporations must be managed in accordance with the modern-day world to get the desired result.
If a government fails to get governance right, other structures of government may collapse or lead to inefficiency.
Maintaining Peace and Order
This role demands that a government must swiftly swing into action to prevent any acts or actions that could lead to a breakdown of law and order. This is called the internal peace responsibility of a government.
In ensuring this is achieved, the government must adequately fund its police, and equip them with modern-day weapons and equipment to assist them in carrying out their functions. It is the responsibility of the police to maintain internal order.
Development of Infrastructure
There is no country in the world where its citizens depend on daily stipends from the government to the field. But citizens can easily feel the impact of a government through the development of robust infrastructure.
The backbone of a country is making provision for public utilities such as electricity, roads, and water. Development experts suggest that one of the core ways to reduce inequalities between urban and rural communities is for the government to improve infrastructure.
From a modern-day economic angle, the availability of infrastructure like roads in rural communities can help farmers to transport their goods to the cities for marketing, this way.
In terms of electricity, the rural communities will be able to connect with the rest of the world through information and also boost their productivity, particularly in a world where online business and online participation have become a bedrock of development.
One of the major functions of the government is to protect its territory against external occupation and protect its citizens against invasion.
Playing this role requires that the government’s Armed Forces like the Army, Navy, and Airforce are well equipped with sophisticated weapons.
They must be able to gather intelligence and use weapons according to the internationally prescribed standard without total disregard for human rights.
Creating enabling environment
There must be an enabling environment for citizens’ economic and standard of living to improve. The government, therefore, needs to make available a legal environment for business activities.
When a government creates an enabling environment for its citizens, it will enable it to focus on more important things like regulation. A government that fails in this aspect will have many crises to deal with.
A government aids the creation and expansion of the market by making available economic policies that support private sector development and being able to intervene to rescue troubled companies at times of crisis.
The role of government is to enable a competitive market and fairness to all economic stakeholders.
Protecting Citizens Beyond Borders
In some instances, it might be difficult for a citizen to take on a big organization or another country for rights violations.
It is the function of the government to step in to ensure fairness and protection of the rights of its citizens through diplomatic means.
For instance, if a citizen of the United States is illegally arrested in another country, the citizen might not be handicapped, but the government of the U.S is expected to step in to either raise a legal team on behalf of the affected citizen or make efforts to rescue its citizen in a situation of abduction.
Human Capital Development
It is one of the responsibilities of the government to invest in its citizens. When this is done, it relieves the government from a lot of economic crises.
For instance, a government that invests in higher education, entrepreneurial skills, and public health is indirectly addressing the issue of poverty and social immobility.
Such a government is also able to promote competitive industries and drive innovation in startups.
Equal Opportunities For All
Every government takes precautionary measures to avoid a crisis, one of the ways to avoid this is by creating equal opportunities for all regardless of religion, gender, race, ethnicity, location, and social status.
Therefore, there must be an enabling policy that promotes citizens’ engagement to have a prosperous society.
For instance, it is the function of a government in a multi-ethnic country to ensure that every group is equally treated in its policies.
Ensures Gender Equality
Men have tendencies of subjugating females in political posts and other areas of daily life, it is the role of the government to act as a voice for the women to ensure that they are fairly treated and respected.
If there is no gender equality law or policy, men might relegate women to ‘inside-room’ roles.
Government generates revenue through taxes, investment, sales of assets, issuance of licenses, and sales of resources.
It is the function of the government to deploy its financial management tools by working with economic experts to ensure that the resources of the government are well managed.
The government manages and reduces the costs of running its institutions. It must be able to avoid borrowing for consumption.
Unavoidable borrowing like loans from the World Bank, and IMF, must be for the development of key infrastructure that will make a meaningful impact to the economy and touch the lives of its citizens positively.
A responsible government that knows its role in the modern world should not borrow more than its revenue. When debt is more than your income, that is a deficit and would have nothing to spend on infrastructure and other key sectors of the economy.
Of course, effective public financial management can cut corruption, reduce waste, and enhance transparency and accountability.
Nurture External Relations
No country lives in isolation. The United States government needs the support of the South Korean government to succeed in its foreign economic policy.
The governments of Somalia and Nigeria need the military support of France, US, and the UK to wipe off terrorism on their soil.
This is why the government of a country establishes and nurtures foreign relationships with other countries for it to succeed in areas where it’s disadvantaged.
Besides, foreign diplomacy is used to oil international peace through the Ministry of Foreign or External Affairs. This ministry is known as the State Department in the U.S.
Promotion of Rule of Law
Abiding by the constitution, and respecting the stipulated laws is one of the major roles of government.
Disregarding the rule of law, partially or absolutely will definitely affect other sectors of the economy. Rules must be enforced according to the Constitution.
When the rule of law is respected, there will be an effective justice system, and orderliness in the public sector, and could minimize objections when a government lays out its achievement.
The executive branch of government is expected to come up with policies that will better the lives of its citizens.
The executive arm can’t achieve this alone. Most times, the policy comes in the form of a bill which is sent to the legislative arm for scrutiny and has the legal backing of the law.
Formulating policies isn’t enough, mechanisms must be put in place for effective result-driven outcomes.
Policies must be result-oriented. For instance, when a government blocks its border against smuggling, it must clearly state what it plans to achieve with it.
Is it to promote and boost local production?
Is it to strengthen security?
The policy must be followed up with actions: increasing border security, equipping border security personnel with digital security gadgets, and collaborating with neighboring countries in intelligence sharing.
Effective Asset Management
A country that is blessed with gold deposits and other natural resources but doesn’t have the expertise to convert them to usable material must devise ways of working with another country that has the human resources.
This economic partnership has to be well managed and clearly spelt out in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the gain of both partners.
This is when the management prowess of a government comes into play. How does it manage the resources that come from such assets? Does it embezzle monetary gain to the detriment of its people?
Assets of a country whether intangibles or tangibles must be to the benefit of its citizens.
A government is expected to think out of the box to convert resources to improve the general well-being of its people and use them as a pathway to economic recovery and prosperity.
For instance, countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia have brilliant asset managers in this area.
Both countries used the resources from oil revenues to develop key infrastructure. Unlike Nigeria and some African countries that wasted, mismanaged, and embezzled revenues they generated from their wealth of resources.
The most ideal thing is for the government to provide an enabling environment and provide the legal framework for investors to come in.
But there are some sectors that may lack private investment, so the government can step in. It is the function of the government to properly manage such businesses for development and economic gains.
Preparation for Natural Disasters
The ability to forecast and prepare ahead to reduce the negative impact of natural disasters is one of the functions of government.
Preparing for disasters and natural catastrophes isn’t enough, a government must be resilient through measures that will minimize the impact of such occurrences.
General Welfare Functions
In the United States, for instance, the Small Business Administration (SBA) is an agency of government to guide and provides support for business owners.
This is a function a government must pay attention to. Small businesses contribute immensely to the macroeconomic development of a country.
The collective efforts and results from small businesses can reduce significantly the rate of poverty.
Inspire federating units
Whether a country runs a federation or regional government, the government at the center through its policies should motivate the federating units: states or regions to localize the economic policies and programs at the center in their domains.
Adapt to technological change
More than two centuries ago, trade by barter was the means of trade in some parts of the world. And then came government-backed currencies.
Today, the world is gradually moving towards digital currency like the Central Bank Digital Coin (CBD).
While there are still some challenges and hurdles to cross, some countries are already making laws or plans to regulate how inventions like cryptocurrencies can be used as means of trade.
A government that fails to study how digital coin works will likely lag behind.
It is the role of the government to adapt to technological change and come up with policies that will enhance revenue generation.
We’re more likely to see the functions of government increasing as the world witnesses new dimensions of inventions as a result of technology. Government must be dynamic in its roles.