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16.10.2008 Business & Finance

Exorcise 'Third World' mentality

The Head of the Civil Service, Mr Joe Issachar, has urged African countries to "exorcise" the Third World mentality and endeavour to emulate the developmental success seen by countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

Speaking after his election as the Vice-President of the African Association of Public Administration and Management (AAPAM), Mr Issachar said African nations needed to develop effective leadership strategies to "unlock" the potential of their civil servants, which would in turn bring about greater development.

He expressed those sentiments at the closing ceremony of the 30th annual roundtable conference of the association in Accra.

The occasion marked the end of a week of discussions by key figures in the public service industries of member countries and included the presentation of their findings.

One of the observations made by the association was that the development achieved by newly industrialized countries, particularly those in the Far East, had been due in part to the focus placed on the development of human capital.

As the official communiqué of the association stated that “a strong public administration system requires competent, knowledgeable, well motivated and innovative human resource”.

It added, however, that "in most African public services, the human resource is not managed as a valuable asset". The communique identified the need to "modernize and professionalize" the human resource function in public service organizations.

In particular it was noted that more investment would need to be channeled into training and development programmes for staff, as well as according them a supportive working environment.

The communiqué stressed that "training and development programmes should be systematically institutionalized within the public service".

It was also highlighted that African services lacked performance and delivery capacities because of the unattractive conditions of service, noting that "pay levels are in most countries low, stagnant, non-competitive, compressed and not related to performance".

Furthermore, the association stated that "pay levels are not determined in a systematic and professional way" and noted that "countries where the civil service has made a difference in development have tended to pay their civil servants well".

Pay reforms, competitive and attractive conditions of service and an increase in fringe benefits were all recommended by the delegates as effective strategies for countries to attract and retain staff and to "arrest the issue of brain drain".

The communiqué acknowledged that "the reason that tends to be given for low pay is inability to pay", but insisted that that was "an assertion that must be questioned".

The document stressed, for example, that money spent on training and development "should be seen as an essential investment and not a cost".

The Minister for Public Sector Reforms, Mr Samuel Owusu-Agyei, commended the delegates for the "frank, open and constructive" way in which countries had presented their own perspectives on the challenges faced in the public service system.

He said in spite of limited funds, countries should find ways to achieve the impossible, insisting that "we should constantly be thinking outside the box, and not be rule-bound".

Mr Owusu-Agyei agreed with the recommendation that a good level of co-operation was needed between the political and the administrative leadership to ensure the effective implementation of policy via the public services.

He expressed his support for plans to involve more politicians in future AAPAM conferences.