Government Statistician’s comments on public sector workers must lead us to evaluate productivity of labour – Prof. Bokpin

Economics and Finance lecturer at the University of Ghana Business School (UGBS), Professor Godfred Alufa Bokpin

A Finance and Economics Professor at the University of Ghana Business School (UGBS), Professor Godfred Alufa Bokpin has called on Ghanaians to take a second look at the comments of the government statistician on the remuneration of public sector workers in the country.

According to him, instead of the general angst and sentiments, Professor Annim’s comments should rather set the tone for a thorough discussion on the actual performance of public sector workers as compared to their wages and compensations.

Speaking in an interview with Kojo Yankson on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show on Tuesday, Professor Bokpin stressed that instead of the widespread backlash and criticism, the remarks of the statistician must impress upon government and other stakeholders to review the quality of work in the public sector.

He said assessing the productivity of workers is necessary in the country’s quest to develop.

“As a country if we don’t elevate that dimension of productivity: what labour puts on the table in return for what it demands, this country will not make the much needed progress we all hope for.

And I’m sure if we did that, it may be possible that certain public sector institutions may have to downsize so that those who’re actually doing the work get rewarded appropriately. And this calls on government working with the relevant institutions to ensure that public sector workers actually work to correspond what they ask for”, he said.

Professor Bokpin added that, “if you do a baseline survey across a lot of public sector institutions, you’ll want to find out whether they have a job description, whether there are clear targets for which reason they go to work everyday [on] Monday to Friday, and whether there are measurable timelines [and] targets evaluated consistently. You may not find that. You may find that in other institutions”.

He continued: “So I agree that we need to look at the disaggregation. But I also agree that the way we’re going, the state will be overburdened.

We’ll not be in a position to sustain the wage bill and commit to other growth enhancing spending that will inure to the common good. So I think that is the conversation that we should be having from what the government statistician actually delivered. For me that’s the take home, and we all must support that drive”.

Government Statistician's comments on public sector workers must lead us to evaluate productivity of labour - Prof. Bokpin
Government Statistician, Professor Samuel Kobina Annim

Delivering his inaugural lecture at the University of Cape Coast last Thursday, Prof. Annim said while earnings averaged about GH¢3,420 for the public sector worker, output in the sector averaged about GH¢1,420, which is less than half the earnings.

The Government Statistician said averagely, public sector workers were paid double for their output.

He therefore, called for the creation of a Public Productivity Committee of Parliament to work like the Public Accounts Committee and ensure that ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) and the public sector, in general, deliver output commensurate with their earnings.

Following these remarks, a section of the populace came out to publicly criticise him. Amongst the aggrieved critics was a senior lecturer at the University of Ghana, Professor Gyampo.

Speaking on Joy FM’s Top Story on Monday, Professor Ransford Gyampo, stated that it is disingenuous and academically hypocritical to lump all the different segments of public servants together.

Government Statistician's comments on public sector workers must lead us to evaluate productivity of labour - Prof. Bokpin
Political Scientist at the University of Ghana, Professor Ransford Gyampo

President of the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), Angel Carbonu also added that the government statistician’s comment about public sector workers being overpaid falls short of what is expected of a person of his caliber.

He contended that the comment smacks of Professor Samuel Kobina Annim doing the bidding of the government, especially at a time when public sector workers are agitating over salaries.

Speaking on Top Story on Monday, Mr. Angel Carbonu asserted that the comment was just to damper public sector workers’ recent agitation over salaries.

“When you have a title called government statistician, then he does statistics for government and what else do you expect government statistician to come up with, statistics for government. 

And when the government has its back to the wall, especially in these times when salary and income agitations are on the rise, then you have such statements being made to damper and cool the atmosphere in such a manner as in, you go to negotiations and that you don’t even go to negotiations with the strength that it deserves”, he intimated.

Government Statistician's comments on public sector workers must lead us to evaluate productivity of labour - Prof. Bokpin
President of the National Association of Graduate Teachers, Angel Carbonu

Reacting to these feedbacks, the government statistician, Professor Samuel Kobina Annim said contrary to the widespread narratives in the public domain, he has not asserted that public sector workers in the country are overpaid.

According to the Economics Professor, the statement, which has been attributed to him are false and misconstrued and therefore should be dismissed.

Speaking in an interview with Benjamin Akakpo on the AM Show on Tuesday, he stated that in his earlier comments, he only sought to initiate a healthy debate about the interplay between productivity in the public sector and how that impacts the country’s overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“The bottom line is that I never said public sector workers are overpaid. No, I didn’t say that public sector workers are being overpaid. I introduced the conversation on productivity. I did it in the context of four other variables.

So essentially, what I sought to do was to start the conversation that states that thee formal sector which is mainly public sector contributes three-quarters to our GDP. Our huge informal sector contributes only 25% to our GDP. The next thing that I sought to do was to demonstrate the inequalities in earnings that we have”, he explained.

The government statistician further clarified: “Unfortunately as a country we’ve been reporting consumption-expenditure inequality. So what my lectures sought to do was to first paint a picture that clearly demonstrates the contribution of the formal sector to our GDP, which as I said is mainly public sector driven.

And then say that if you look at inequalities from an earnings point of view based on data from the public sector, we have a stark inequality”.

He also emphasised that, “Once the gini coefficient is closer to one, it characterises a nearby perfect unequal space. Then using the data on earnings, I showed that the gini coefficient was 2.71 if you take away the ally.

Then the third variable that I talked about had to do with productivity. And I said if we always have been releasing GDP and we don’t measure productivity, how can we track the progress that we want to make on GDP? Then I said look at our population that are employed from the census. Look at our GDP and then this is the output per person. And this is the earnings per person in the public sector space.

This is a conversation that we should have because in economics we say that what you earn should be equal to your output and that should be equal to what you spend. But we’re seeing this disparity. And I only used the formal public sector as a proxy for earning”.

But amidst the back and forth, Professor Bokpin believes that the discussion should focus more on assessing the output of labour, rather than the public reservations about the comments of the statistician.