Finance minister laments workers’ low productivity, NLC knocks Ahmed

THE PUNCH Newspaper- Sunday Aborisade and Olufemi Atoyebi

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, on Thursday, lamented the low productivity in the public sector, saying the high personnel cost portrayed Nigeria as a consuming nation.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, stated this at the budget defence session in the Senate. She expressed concern about the high personnel cost compared with capital expenditure.

The minister described as a mismatch a personnel cost of N3.3tn and a capital expenditure of N2.1trn in the 2020 budget.

She said, “We have a national problem of low productivity especially within government. Our personnel cost in the 2020 budget proposal is N3.3tn from a budget size of N10.3tn.

“We should collectively work together to see how we can reduce the cost. If we cannot reduce the cost, we should be able to maximize the staff that we have and how we can increase their productivity.

“When we compare a staff cost of N3.3tn and a capital of N2.1tn, it is a mismatch. We are definitely portraying ourselves as a nation that our concentration is not on developmental projects but on consumption.

“It is something that had built up over time. We have to do something that is unpopular and take bold and radical steps to make a difference.

“It is not what the executive alone can do, we will be urging the National Assembly to support us when we want to take some radical actions in order to increase productivity not just in the public service but also nationally.”

But the Nigeria Labour Congress condemned the minister over her claim that despite low productivity, personnel cost in the 2020 budget proposal was N3.3trn out of N10.3tr budget size.

In an exclusive interview with one of our correspondents, the Secretary General of the NLC, Emmanuel Ugboaja, said the minister should compare the wages of political office holders to that of civil servants who earned N30,000 as minimum wage.

Ugboaja noted that workers in the civil service would only work according to the pace set by government for them.

He said, “I don’t know the position from which she was speaking but she is not saying anything new. Productivity is not limited to civil servants alone, it includes her too. The personnel cost includes her wages. The personnel cost of N3.3tn is not all about the workers that earn N30,000 as minimum wage.

“Their (civil servants) cost is clearly negligible by the time you know what the senators, house of representative members, ministers and all of them take. You will know that that personnel cost has nothing to do with poor cleaners that you just said N30,000 should be their salary. That is clearly not what our challenge is.”

Asked if he agreed with the minister over low productivity among workers, the NLC spokesman said President Muhammadu Buhari was addressing the ministers’ productivity when he asked them not to travel abroad more than twice a quarter of the year.

He added, “It depends on the angle you are watching the workers. Are you going to purchase what has not been designed? You have productivity based on design. It has nothing to do with the workers. Workers will work according to the pace that the establishment has been designed to work with.

“You heard the President telling the ministers not to travel more than twice in a quarter. If you have ministers that are permanently outside the country and you need them to sign papers before you proceed and they are not around to do so, how would you function?

“The President has hit the nail on the head by reducing their trips abroad. These are not the poorly paid N30,000 civil servants. If the head is not functional, there is nothing you can do. People work at the pace you want them to work.”

In a similar vein, Secretary of the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council, Alade Lawal, said Nigerian workers sacrificed a lot for the nation compared to the low wages they earn and what politicians take home.

He said, “She cannot hold us to that position. If you are talking of low productivity in the civil service, there is nothing like that.
Those who held meetings during the minimum wage negotiation all night long are civil servants and it was not that they were paid anything for it.

“They do it because it is their job. At the end of the day, they are paid peanut. A deputy director in the civil service is paid N200,000 plus in the current situation we found ourselves. Government also comes up with bad policies that demoralise career workers in the civil service.”


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