“If we are going to change Bermuda’s trajectory, we will have to change our mindsets to deal with the social and economic realities of the 21st century: a shrinking and ageing population, an underperforming education system and healthcare costs that are spiralling out of control.”
That’s the crux of the report released this week by BermudaFirst and Chairman, Philip Butterfield says the 31-page report, unlike others, will not just sit on a shelf.
Describing the document as a “guide book” to where Bermuda needs to go to address the challenges that lie ahead, he said the next phase involves BermudaFirst working with the Government to effect real change.
But he said: “The downside risk of not doing the job well is unacceptable.
“I’m not in the quick-fix business and I don’t believe any of my colleagues are, but I do want to begin serious work as soon as possible,” he added.
The report calls for a remodelled healthcare system that is focused on outcomes, an independent education authority, effective moves to lower the cost of living in Bermuda and new immigration policies.
The Future State Report, commissioned by Premier David Burt, represents the second phase of its national socioeconomic plan to “enhance the lives of Bermudians and provide citizens with the tools and opportunity to realise their full potential”.
Unveiled at a news conference held at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute on Friday, the report challenges Bermudians to accept the willingness to accept change that is necessary to meet the challenges that lie ahead.
BermudaFirst is the end result of a think tank led by reinsurance executive Don Kramer and consists of business and political leaders, that formed in 2009 to find solutions to the island’s economic woes.
Resurrected by the Bermuda Government in 2017, without politicians involved this time around, other members include representatives from various businesses, charities, trade union and education.
The report points up four global trends impact life in Bermuda, including rising inequalities, the rapid rate of technological change, tribalism and climate change.
Action on education, healthcare and talent/immigration were also listed as “critical priorities”.
Bermuda’s public education system in particular, was listed failing to prepare young people for the job opportunities available today.
“If we fail to act decisively now, our passivity will be viewed as the most significant missed opportunity in the history of the island,” the report said.
Now that Phase II of the National Socio-Economic Plan has been completed, with specific recommendations for achieving a healthier future , BermudaFirst plans to shift to changing the mindset and behaviour to achieve sustainable growth in Bermuda’s economy.
In some cases, the report said, the impact of the four global trends cited has already begun.
“The impact and effects of rising inequalities are powerfully evident across our community,” the report said.
“Wage disparities continue to plague us, exacerbating the delta between the haves and have nots.
“We must ensure there is no discrimination in wages received by any of our citizens based, among other things, on race or gender. Wages should reflect equal pay for equal work.
“The anti-social behaviour evidenced in our community also requires a proactive response. We must ensure the combination of available resources within Government and the charitable sector represent sufficient response to improve conditions that impede those citizens affected from realising their full potential.
“The assessment of both Government and the Third Sector should lead to a rightsizing of these resources to ensure effective and efficient solutions,” the report added.
“We must not ignore the challenges faced by our Senior Citizens, many of whom are financially challenged and, at times, forced to choose between food and medication, receive limited therapeutic support services and/or lack adequate accommodation, especially when they can no longer care for themselves.
“We must immediately engage our Seniors in consultative dialogue to ensure the resources necessary for living the life they deserve are available to them.
“The increasingly rapid rate of Technological Change, including the impact of Artificial Intelligence, is the factor whose impact we know will be significant, but its extent is a challenge to accurately dimension.
“We cannot bury our heads in the sand or pretend that Bermuda will not be impacted; nor should we be afraid of it.
“Making Public Education world class, upskilling the workforce, and inviting and incubating talent in this space, are the required actions to make our island competitive in the future.”
On tribalism, or “the behaviour and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own social group” BermudaFirst said it was “the most troubling global trend, as it can have a devastating impact on the social fabric of our community”.
“It is in any form, be it religion, politics, status, class or race, the antithesis to meaningful collaboration,” the report stated.
“In a location as small as Bermuda, segmenting into the haves and have nots; choosing ‘me’ instead of ‘we’; allowing issues that are relatively inconsequential to dominate our discourse while the consequential challenges inhabit the recesses of our consciousness, is not a pathway to sustainable success.
“To solve our challenges, we need respectful dialogue, patient listening skills, an ability to disagree without being disagreeable and all shoulders to the wheel.
“How we work together, respect one another and share common expectations for our well-being will, in our view, be true indicators for success,” the report added.
Reflecting on the “frequency and ferocity of hurricanes and storms” in recent years, Climate Change the report said: “Over time, however, there is an adverse impact on our already challenged infrastructure”.
The possibility of flooding in Town Square in St George’s, for example, “reminds us that we must maintain a state of preparedness,” the report said.
“We must not ignore these indicators. The ongoing erosion of our coral reef is another factor that we need to heed. Bermuda has
the talents of BIOS and weather experts at several of the Class 4 Re-insurers at our disposal. Convening these talents would be in our best interest.”
The BermudaFirst report contains “several recommendations” for Bermuda “to successfully navigate the impact of the global trends previously mentioned”.
“We have concluded that the most important, urgent decisions encompass three areas: Education, Health Care and Talent/Immigration.
“We must make a radical change in Public Education and have a world class system that produces graduates who can compete in their choice of either academic or vocational careers.
“This reformed system must be based on accountability for outcomes. Despite the best efforts to date, we have under-performed, and one glaring reality is the portion of our population that is unable to compete for existing job opportunities, much less present themselves as candidates for emerging 21st century work!
“If we fail to act decisively now, our passivity will be viewed as the most significant missed opportunity in the history of the Island. In addition, we should introduce bold and relevant job training programmes that allow those persons in the workforce who can acquire new skills to take their earned place.
“We must be very clear that the opportunity for equal participation comes from each citizen’s willingness to put in the work and earn that place. These realities ‘make the case’ for our Education recommendation, which is foundational to any long-term sustainable success.
“The second critical action to be taken concerns Health Care.”
We’ll take a look at that section of the report and others in subsequent reports.