How many public holiday days are ‘too much’ for the good of our national economy? How much rest is too much rest from a national productivity point of view? Is it asking too much to ask for a balance between the need to celebrate religious and national events with the need to drive hard for national wealth? What is the practice in other parts of Africa and the world? Take a look at this please:
This table presents an interesting picture. Holidays falling on Sundays and Saturdays have not been included as these days are work free days anyway in all of these countries. There seems to be a general correlation between the number of public holidays and the size of a country’s national economy as measured by GDP. Is this correlation as a result of productivity losses or gains from more or less number of national holidays or is it just a general pointer to the correlation between cultural inclinations and productivity?
In the course of researching this article, I discovered quite unsurprisingly that I am not the first or only person that has been bothered by this issue. I also found that there isn’t any generally available conclusive report on the matter. Which means we are all free to draw our own conclusions based on whatever data we choose to use.
Another way one could assess the effect of these holidays on productivity is to simply do a daily average productivity figure. Since the GDP is a measure of national productivity over a 365 day period, one could assume that Nigeria’s daily GDP in 2013 for instance was $1.43 billion or N236 billion. The implication of this is that we have 13 days during which an estimated 70% of all productive activity is lost. The 30% productivity level during this period is adduced to the informal sector operators that continue business as well as transactions driven by e-commerce and other technology driven economic activities. Based on these assumptions, productivity losses during our public holidays can be estimated to be $13.01 billion or N2.2 trillion. That’s 2.5% of our GDP! Just so we put some perspective to the implication of this, the much celebrated contribution of Nollywood to 2013 GDP was N1.13 trillion, 1.42% of GDP. All of the activity of that sector is lost to our public holidays!
No one can deny the need for rest and as one of my friends in Twitter said this morning, even God rested after 6 days of work. But one thing I did find both quite illuminating and disturbing is that Nigeria, the 23rd largest economy in the world, with a vision of becoming at least the 20th largest in the next 6 years (yes, 2020 is only 6 years away!) spends more time celebrating and resting than the United States, the world’s largest, China (2nd), Germany (4th), France (5th), the United Kingdom (6th) and Brazil (7th). Nigeria has just a little fewer public holidays than Russia (8th) and Japan 3rd) with India being the only member of the top 10 global economies that spends more time resting than Nigeria. The question then has to be, shouldn’t Nigeria be working much harder than members of the club of rich nations it wishes to belong?
The point of this article is to raise the kind of fundamental questions we need to be asking if we are to achieve that elusive potential everyone sees in Nigeria. Our National Planning Commission and our national economic strategists need to start asking a different set of questions to get the answers we really need as a nation. National development can no longer be seen from the prism of the number of roads, schools and hospitals being built as some of President Jonathans aides would have us do. It has to become more about how to boost national productivity, impact the lives of the average Nigerian in very real and concrete ways and enhance human development indices significantly and rapidly.