• Thursday, June 20, 2024
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OPS warns lengthy holidays harming business, economy

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Members of Nigeria’s Organised Private Sector (OPS) yesterday warned that the country’s penchant for long holidays at every twist and turn is harming businesses and as a consequence, the economy, currently facing its biggest stress test in decades.

In direct responses to BusinessDay enquiries, a number of business leaders allied to the Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (NECA), the Nigerian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, among  others, said businesses are being slowed down and losing billions of naira as a result.

They say the losses suffered from prolonged public holidays are made even worse by infrastructure deficiencies, manpower shortfalls and intermitent strikes among others.

This is as the tottering Nigerian economy remains shutdown for an additional day today, following the extra one-day holiday announced by the Federal Government in addition to Tuesday and Wednesday, earlier declared as public holidays to mark the end of the Ramadan fast, with stakeholders pointing to sevre implications.

The stakeholders say that the extra holiday which compels players in the economy to continue to shut down their businesses today, having only Friday (tomorrow), before closing down again for the weekend, is tantamount to losses in billions of naira, going by the size of the Nigerian economy which is put at $510 billion from the 2014 rebasing of the country’s GDP.

They add that Nigeria has too many holidays to do with Christian, Muslim and other anniversaries and celebrations and that these impact significantly on the economy.

Olusegun Oshinowo, director-general of  the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), says lengthy holidays jeopardises cash flow, which is important for business to meet its obligations to all its stakeholders.

“This does not portray us as a serious-minded nation which appreciates the value of time and productivity. We seem to be either insensitive or unaware of the linkage between productive use of time and welfare of our citizens. Our economy still has a huge chunk of  actors in the informal economy, who depend on daily income to earn a living.

“Public holidays deprive them the opportunity for that income and hence, quality life. For the formal economy, it affects productivity and sales, thereby imperiling cash flow, which is important for business to meet its obligations to all its stakeholders.

“It is time we have a roster or schedule of public holidays for the country, which should be as minimal as possible, and should not be subject to the vagaries of religious expediency.”

Femi Aborishade, a lawyer and founder, Centre for Labour Studies, Ibadan, Oyo State, also bares his mind.

According to Aborishade, “the holidays are not reflective of our collapsing economy. For almost week, the economy has been down. It shows poor planning on the part of the government, and I am sure they can do better than this in the future”.

A source within one of the chambers of commerce and industry, craving anonimity, decribes lengthy holidays as  disruptive to the economy.

“People have business plans, seminars and meetings, all of which must be cancelled because of holidays that were not envisaged. I must however say that I can understand the government’s sensitivity to the issue leading to the extra holiday, but as much as possible, we should avoid hurting the economy.

“When banks are shut down, it has very serious implications on all other sectors of the economy,” said the source.

Speaking also on the development, John Ehiguese, CEO of Media Craft and president of the Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria (PRCAN), says government needs to plan better and balance its priorities with regard to holidays so that emotional and welfare needs of the citizenry don’t clash or suffer.

As a whole, Nigeria observes about eleven national holidays spread over 16 working days, asides weekends. These include New Year Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Workers Day, Democracy Day, Eid-el-fitri Sallah, Id el Kabir, Independence Day, Id el Moulud, Christmas and Boxing Day.  Stakeholders observe that apart from these national holidays, many of the nation’s 36 states arbitrarily declare holidays, further undermining the economy.

This contrasts the United Kingdom with only six national holidays across nine days.

Although the United States of America observes 11 national holidays, same as Nigeria, her economy is not undermined by infrastructural challenges, especially lengthy power outages, they add.   

They further observe that the holiday spree speaks to Nigeria’s sloppiness in an economy further challenged by bombing of oil assets, shrinking government revenues, backlog of unpaid salaries in the public and private sectors, rising unemployment, all of which require unbroken productive engagements to remain globally competitive.

With governance from Abuja to the 36 states on holiday, the judiciary and justice system, banking and insurance, stock and money market, ports operations and other business activities closed down for three days, Nigeria has only shown that it does not appreciate the value of time and productivity, they say.

JOSHUA BASSEY