Benchmarking Productivity In Nigeria: An Effort That Produces Result

09 June 2012

By Abdul-Warees Solanke

Recently, the minister of labour and productivity gave cheering news from the Federal Executive Council, with the announcement of the introduction of a National productivity policy to drive productivity in our public life. The policy which had been in the works for some time according to the minister, had inputs from various stakeholders including the labour movement. Ultimately, with the crafting of the productivity policy and its successful implementation, pride of service will be restored in the country.

Productivity, even from the layman's definition or point of view, is an effort that produces result. In the larger context and qualitatively, productivity entails the efficiency, the effectiveness, the economy of cost, the quality and quantum of output, the medium term result and the longer term impact of an effort. In essence, productivity is the totality of value an effort produces in meeting the national goals and aspirations on development. The valid question here is: what value deserves recognition or celebration (after all, part of the programmes of the productivity policy is the offer of recognition and awards to deserving individuals and corporate citizens  for their contributions to the growth of the national economy and improvement in other indices of development.

Secondly, we ought to ast: what criteria should be used to determine productivity in our milieu? In answering these questions, we must also look at the enabling environment that will stimulate productivity and excellence which are related to the performances indicators and the standards in place as well the best practices on which they are benchmarked.

In implementing the productivity policy therefore, a number of sectoral assessments have to be considered:  First, is the state of our informal sector. There is no doubt that the informal sector in Nigeria today is wider than the public and the organized private sectors. But the sector is not fully captured in the productivity indices or the GNP of the country. It is therefore difficult to measure the value or quantum of efforts in that sector, nor for the country to maximize the earnings from it. How do we capture these free fliers or riders and set measurable performance standards which can be monitored, not only for rewards but also for the benefit of the overall economy? How can we checkmate the free riders who contribute little or nothing to the economy?

There is also the challenge of coordination in the private sector. Although the various players in that sector are wont to declare themselves as organized, hence the acronym of OPS, but we are yet to really see the impact of organization in a sector where the law of the jungle seem to prevail.  Free entry and exit, compromised processes and requirements for registration, and slack in regulatory activities give room for charlatans and ordinary traders and marketers to masquerade as industrialists engaged in productive enterprises without creating real value in the country. But their impact is in the noise they make through deceptive advertisements, the musical orchestras they promote and the tokenisms of CSR activities they engage in to pull wool over our eyes.

In truth, most of them engage in round tripping and foreign exchange and import licence frauds, as they are responsible for capital flight or profit transfer from Nigeria to their home countries to create more wealth and jobs for their people. In a world that thrives on knowledge and innovation, the real beneficiaries of their investment are the expatriates who may even hold lower qualifications compared to their local counterparts. Check the local content of their inputs, and we find that the imported items weigh disastrously higher than what they source from Nigeria when they should have invested in the discovery of local alternatives which in many cases are of superior quality. 

In the public sector, productivity is easier to define and measure. It is in the visible services provided by the state and its agents; it is in the quality and impact of policies made to translate the social contract between the elected and the electorate; in the outcome of the implementation strategies for the realization of the fundamental objectives and the directive principles of state policies as contained in the constitution. Those who are opportune to serve in government and are able to meet the benchmarks of development agenda within their terms or tenure to the satisfaction of the citizens are of course eligible for productivity excellence award.

Unfortunately, our political culture still needs more refinement to produce public servants who will truly serve in public interest; our public sector still needs to be smarter and more nimble to drive productivity and development. We still need to see the utility of SERVICOM, the application of the code of conducts in the public sector and the efficacy of other reform tools for alignment and coordination public sector organizations to reduce or cut waste, redundancy, duplication and overlaps and convert the savings derived from such reforms to tangible investment in the real sector to create new jobs and more wealth. 

 One other crucial factor that can promote productivity is the friendliness, effectiveness and efficiency of our system of taxation in order to block all loopholes but guarantee compliance with the various tax regimes, including custom and excise duties. Many industries are known to have closed shops or relocated to other countries in the sub-region because of multiple taxation or high incidences of taxation. On the other hand too, our tax system is open to abuses arising from evasion, non-disclosure of all sources of income declaration of true state of finance of the productive enterprises, undervaluation to escape taxation and compromises on the part of tax officials. In this scenario, the nation loses a great deal as productivity in the real sector dwindles while trading and marketing take centre stage in our economic life.

When we talk of productivity, we are conscious that foreign direct investment plays crucial role in building national wealth. But we must provide the right incentives, give encouraging tax reliefs, create the enabling environment and institute the effective legal and regulatory frameworks necessary for genuine foreign investors to have confidence in our system and roll in their capital. Therefore, the beauty in any productivity policy is that it must seek to identify and reward wealth builders and pace setters in development facilitation. It must seek to instil competition in productive endeavours and service provision to benefit the vast majority of the citizens. Productivity policy must also seek to identify assist underperformers and discover their weak points with a view to working diligently  on them to push them into the league of national wealth creators.

Hopefully, the productivity policy document will hold all the stakeholders in the public, private and third party (NGOs and civil society groups) sectors committed to stimulating  economic growth in the country, rewarding creators of job opportunities and wealth and encouraging starters with potentials for growth.

Abdul-Warees Solanke, Head, Voice of Nigeria Training Centre, Broadcasting House, Ikoyi Lagos studied Mass Communication and Public Policy and  writes via



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