Shock Value

Shock Value

The Nigerian economy, like any other, experiences “shocks”— events or policy decisions that can send a ripple of changes through the system. This column zooms in on these ripples in a range of sectors to explore how and why these shocks matter.

***

Can Performance-Based Pay Fix the Civil Service?

Ebehi Iyoha

Ebehi Iyoha

Ebehi is an avid reader seeking insights in unexpected places. Her research interests include economic development, political economy and trade.

In Nigeria, wage issues currently loom large; the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) argues that workers are underpaid, but many state governors point out that they cannot afford current salaries, much less pay increases. Against the backdrop of this wage discussion is the daily experience of an inefficient public sector – teacher absenteeism, an unreliable police force, unresponsive bureaucrats, etc. – leading many to wonder why we spend such large amounts on running the government. 

Some attempts have been made at reform. The Bayelsa state government has focused on reducing its wage bill by weeding out ghost workers, while Kaduna state's approach has been to retrench underqualified or underperforming workers. However, the changes are temporary fixes and do not tackle the underlying the underlying problem with the incentive structure in the public service. Could a performance-based system provide a lasting solution?

Most people would agree that workers should be paid based on how well they do their jobs. For example, we would be willing to pay more for a tailor who can sew a well-made outfit within two weeks than to someone who makes poorly finished clothes and delays for months. It doesn't matter if the less capable tailor is older or has been in the business longer; at the end of the day, we only care about the end product – our clothes. The same principle should be applied to the public service – staff should be hired, paid and promoted based on their ability and efficiency.

...
Read More