Opinions Mon, 22 Sep 2014

Ghana: The Queuing Republic

I have observed with utmost disgust another unproductive and needless culture that is gradually creeping its way into the Ghanaian social fabric. The culture of queuing, as needless and avoidable as it is, has also registered itself into the social psyche of Ghanaians, adding too many cultural and social nemeses that continue to impede the developmental efforts of the country.

Barely does one receive a service without having to join one long queue or the other. Whiles some are able to muscle their positions through, others pay themselves out of this needless stress therein, making it extremely difficult for people who have neither of these to escape the pangs of spending productive time for a service to be rendered.

In our part of the world no service is rendered except one has to queue over a long period of time. I am yet to witness a single service that people do not queue for. In fact, queues mounts and abounds in churches, funeral grounds, hospitals, registration centers, banking halls, popular food joints many but to mention a few.

Let me admit here, however, that for some services, one cannot but accept a reasonable queue. Indeed my problem is not with queuing per se, but the fact that no proactive measure are being taken to address the alarming proportion and the attendant effects of queuing. This I find unacceptably problematic.

Knowing the essence of providing customer-centric and stress free services, the private sector has over the years worked to spare its numerous stakeholders from queuing for simple services. For this end, many innovative and streamlined measures have been put in place to avert the indignity of queuing in services that the private sectors diligently provide. I would have cataloged some of these queue containing measures if not for the risk of digression.

This has unfortunately not been the case in the public sector. A cursory analysis of operations of private and public banks in Ghana paints a clear picture of wide difference in respect of this. Whiles people are made to join long queues in securing public related services; such is not evident in services that are spearheaded by private companies.

It seems to me that queuing best serve the ends of some public sector workers. Obviously I will not doubt that long queues are sometimes used as measures against which hardworking is gauged. Perhaps, by attending to many people in a long queue, workers in the public sector can make a case for promotion and salary increment.

It is another Service year. Scores of young graduates are equally not spared their share of the sour pill of queuing for registration. Many stand with despondency written all over their faces as I walk pass them to join the spiraling queue. In the queue are people whose health are not tolerant to such an endless endurance. I can see those who equally look pale out of hunger and thirst. Surrounded by all these witnesses, I couldn’t but get into my thinking realm.

The first thought to creep into my skull was why the service secretariat, after long years of operations, is still unable to curtail and reduce, to the barest minimum, the long queuing of national service personnel. What is nerve racking about this whole episode is the fact that most of these personnel have had to travel over a long journey only to be treated to another health threatening experience of long queuing.

While contemplating over a possible reason for this endless cycle of long queuing of service personnel, reality dawned on me that the practice was not only characteristic with the National service registration as there are many public service providers who cannot equally absolve themselves of being culpable in this regard.

In view of this, I shudder to ask these questions: 1. Why is that services, especially those as rendered by the public sector comes with so much avoidable stress?

2. Are there not adverse social implications in a system that sees people compete with others old enough to be their parents in their quest to similar services?

3. Are there no economic and health implications to long queuing?

4. What then, considering the socio-economic and health effects of this menace, is being done to avoid the trend?

While I wait painstakingly for answers to these questions, I would like to suggest that public sector service providers must move to digitize, instead of personalizing their processes and practices. Doing this, in my estimation, will go a long way to reducing the stress and avoidable economic, social and health ramifications that come with queuing.

Samuel Osarfo Boateng
Ogilvy, Ghana
Columnist: Samuel Osarfo Boateng