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Productivity, service and an absence of pipe fitters

Sandy Grant
After Professor Roman Grynberg’s rubbishing of much of the international rating systems - with which we are so routinely engrossed – it was hardly surprising that my interest would be pricked by the article in last week’s Guardian, ‘BNPC Feeds Rating Agencies Wrong Statistics’.

Mind you, the headline was the only part of the article which I could readily understand, the rest being way over my head.  But apart from the charge that the BNPC is fiddling the figures, I did wonder if the Guardian had done the Productivity Centre a favour by reminding everyone of its existence. 

After all, this was a hugely expensive project which was established at a time when there was major concern about our failure to be as productive as we are supposed to be.  Twenty years later and I imagine that its net effect is virtually nil.  Apart from attending expensive international conferences, what on earth does it do? Is the taxpayer getting value for money or are we continuing to pay for an institution which has never justified its costly establishment.  I merely ask because I have not the slightest idea – but if the place feels that it needs public support it should make some effort to tell everyone what it claims to do.  How, for interest’s sake, might it react to my very recent productivity story. Thus – I am picking away in an attempt to produce a book probably to be titled, ‘Gaborone – A Portrait of a City’ – and needed to pin down the origins of an article entitled ‘Gaberones’ which was published in 1969.  The author was identified as belonging to the University of `Liverpool in England but the photocopy of the article did not indicate in which journal it had been published. I did a bit of googling and late mid morning on Friday the 4th sent off my query being aware that I might not even get a response or, that if I did, it would not appear before the following Monday or Tuesday.  The response from the Liverpool librarian which was sent at 12.13 (13.13 here) on the very same Friday, told me that my query obviously related to an article of that title in vol 54(2) of the journal Geography, April 1969, pp. 217-220. I sent my e mailed thanks for his remarkable help on 5.33 (4.33 his time). To my amazement, he immediately responded saying that it had been a pleasure to help. Wow.

His e mail was sent at 4.39 his time (5.39 ours). And this was a Friday afternoon when only

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the most naïve would expect to find any kind of civil servant still at work here, let alone get a response from them.  It may be claimed that this Liverpool librarian happened to be an exception to the norm. My belief, however, is that he is just another professional, doing a job which he loves, and that if he can provide a service late on Friday afternoon, he will be happy to do it. Do we have people of that kind who are willing and able to provide a comparable service? Of course, they will always be there – but right now they seem to be a minority.

Is it reasonable to wonder if this kind of scenario might be relevant to the health care situation which is of such nation- wide concern? In the last week we have heard of the heavy criticisms made at public meetings by people in Maun, and Mochudi about the poor service provided by the hospitals there and in Molepolole about the inadequate water supply.  With the next election now imminent, it is disturbing that both issues, the degraded hospitals and the degraded water supply systems, which are of such obvious concern to so many people are being generally disregarded by all the political parties. An impression which must now be gaining ground is that the government itself is either unable, or more probably, unwilling, to tackle the hospital and health care system head on. In essence, this particular problem takes us straight back to those issues of service and productivity and thus to the National Productivity Centre.

Both issues are interlocked with questions of training which takes us to the water supply leakage problems which according to Minister Kitso Mokaila are compounded by the Water Utilities inability to recruit sufficient numbers of pipe fitters. If these people really do not exist, we can only marvel at our inability to think ahead and to provide the kinds of training that the country would most need. Van Rensburg recognised that need in the 1960 and 1970s but the government instead preferred to churn out white collar graduates.  Are we now obliged to bite that particular bullet or can we ask about the respective roles of the Productivity Centre, the Training Centres and even the Brigades. No pipe fitters! Amazing.



Etcetera II

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