Two Sides of the Same Coin [opinion]

DISRUPTION to and the undermining of productivity, are the hue and cry from many at this time of the year.

Not without good reason, but perhaps over-dramatisation in a country like Namibia with a rather small industrial base. After all, sectors that contribute significantly to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), such as mining and agriculture never stop, but operate continuously 24-hours on every day of a calendar year. They cannot, without great cost, stop and restart operations at will or by whim.

Starting with Independence Day on 21 March and ending with Africa Day on 25 May, this period of the year in which we are currently in, generally referred to as the public holiday season, has seven public holidays.

Some even go further and complain that Namibia has far too many public holidays to begin with. Namibia’s Public Holidays Act, 1990 (Act 26 of 1990) provides for 12 public holidays annually. Not so many when compared to other countries. Interestingly in 2015 India will top the list with 21 public holidays. Cambodia is in the same league. Hong Kong and Egypt come in lower with 16 days, which is still four days more than Namibia’s 12.

By the way, South Africa also has 12 public holidays this year, but Angola has 15 in contrast to the lower numbers of Namibia’s other neighbouring countries, 9 in Botswana and 11 in Zambia.

In Namibia, the Act regulating public holidays provides for a Monday following a Sunday, which is a public holiday, to also be deemed a public holiday, unless that Monday is already a public holiday. Generally this does not increase the actual number of public days measured over a calendar year. Other countries follow similar guidelines, so that people aren’t short-changed on the number of public holidays they enjoy annually.

Holidays with religious significance, for example Christmas and Easter, are generally celebrated all over the world in predominantly Christian countries. However, the actual dates of such public holidays might change from country-to-country. As for other public holidays, similar to other countries around the world, Namibia observes days based on events of significance to this nation’s history.

Let’s be honest: despite all the complaints and references to lost productivity, we all love public holidays. Not surprising in such a geographically vast land. It provides an opportunity to travel long distances to visit family who one might only see over the festive season in December.

For city dwellers, the day is a chance for us to visit the mushrooming shopping malls or to chill out with family and friends around a braai at one of the local outdoor recreational spots.

Talking about productivity although those in manufacturing might complain, for some sectors of business public holidays actually facilitate business opportunities. Consider the hospitality and tourism sectors, tour operators, retailers including supermarkets, restaurants and cinemas in the shopping malls. Add to this passenger transport operators, fuel service stations and their kiosks selling takeaways and beverages.

For enterprises in the aforementioned sectors and for many others too, the idiom two sides of the same coin rings true. Some might view public holidays as a curse, but many more engaged in business actually consider it a blessing. Even as a time to make money. Employees of such enterprises generally also view it favourably, as working on a public holiday means higher pay or overtime.

In short, stop complaining and make the most of the time off. Catch-up with some reading, view a good movie on TV or better still on the big screen at a cinema.

Source : The Namibian