Thursday, January 3, 2008

Forget about the bad times: It's (another) holiday

From the FROYOAA newspaper in Gambia surfaces a complaint of the bad consequences brought on by too many public holidays.

Business Operators have complained and expressed disapproval over the numerous declarations of public holidays in this country. They argued that public holidays have had an adverse impact on their businesses, as they lose huge income during the periods.

Speaking to this reporter, who went round to sample the opinions of the business operators, one man who spoke, on condition of anonymity, said he had lost a significant sum of money during the public holidays. The man who sells construction materials as well as beds further said that the likelihood of customers coming out in large numbers on public holidays is very slim.

As a result of the low customer turn out, he said, he often experienced a low turn over in revenue. He noted that business does not thrive well in conditions where public holidays are frequent. He added that although public holidays cannot be cancelled all together, but the high number of public holidays is totally uncalled for and unnecessary.

It’s a good point. Gambia, according to this site, celebrates 11 public holidays. That’s barely a scratch to Burkina Faso, which closes down for no less than 18 workdays each year. In the month of December alone, three full public holidays were scheduled along with two days of journée continue, where offices and some businesses close for the day at 2:30 pm.

Admittedly, in countries that celebrate Christian festivals, December will always be chocked full of holidays (although Muslim Tabaski, called Eid ul-Adha elsewhere, is presently celebrated in December).

In Burkina Faso, however, secular and government celebrations are also very widespread. Today we commemorate the 1966 coup d’etat which ousted the country’s first president Maurice Yaméogo. March 8 the country will ring in Women’s day (which is very popular) and May first observes labor day. Then there is Revolution Day (August 4), Independence Day (August 5), August 15 (Anniversary of President Blaise Compaore’s rule) and finally December 11, the Proclamation of the Republic Day (when Upper Volta became an autonomous republic in French colonies).

There’s actually more. When major religious holidays fall on a weekend, the government often calls the Monday afterwards a day of rest.

Chasing money
For firms that thrive off of tourism, my guess is that they don’t see a loss of revenue – mainly because they don’t close down. However, for businesses that target the local population, many interruptions could adversely affect revenue. That being said, 11 public holidays for Gambia don’t seem that far out of line with the rest of the world – especially with countries where people observe different religious faiths.

Let's be honest: 11 holidays per year is less than one per month. Viewing a calendar, even 18 holidays seems feasible, especially in a country where Saturday is often observed as a workday. My guess is that most people don’t want to move towards the practice found in the United States where the government and banks take a few holidays outside of religious and major civic festivals, but they are generally ignored by everyone else.

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