SAGE — ‘don’t throw the baby out with the bath water’.

In other words, ‘don’t be overly zealous and discard something valuable along with something without value’. 

The baby should be kept but the bathwater discarded!

The SAGE report was tabled in the House of Assembly on Friday and became an ‘instant media hit’.  Based on recommendations to eliminate jobs, privatize services, reduce public pensions and reduce the number of MPs and their pay, the report should have a long shelf life.

The baby is the data in the report. The bathwater is the political and public invective about the report and some of its factual inaccuracies.

The Baby

Both political leaders have commented on the need to reduce expenditure.  Bermuda cannot sustain annual deficits of $300m.  

The 17 page Executive Summary provides an overview.  The rest of the report adds ‘meat to the bones’.  The devil is in the details.

For some, the recommendations do not go far enough. We need a balanced budget before the 2016(17) financial year. Then there are the increased rumblings of the sleeping giant, aka BHB, which may need more financial support.

An advantage of the report is that it contains a concise summary of some of Bermuda’s recent economic activity. It can be used as a common public reference for alternative analysis to validate, augment or contradict the recommendations.

At private rates, the cost of the report would likely exceed $500k. 

The Bathwater

The bathwater started almost immediately on the various blogs.  We also have official party political comments about the essence of the report.  Whilst expected, neither will help Bermuda!

The fact is that the SAGE Committee was formed by the government and the Commissioners were appointed by the Minister of Finance.  Accordingly there is an inherent and expected bias.

Others have questioned the accuracy of certain aspects of the Report and the rigour of the research, most recently the Cabinet Secretary.  Previous questions arose from errors in the $12,500 prize winning submission.

There are also valid critiques of the report. Chief amongst them is the practicality of implementing the recommendations in a timely manner. Others complain that yet again the savings are mostly ‘on the backs of the workers’.

Do not be caught by information overload – there are many current and planned public reports requiring feedback.  The Throne Speech and Reply, Education Consultation, Gaming, the Halo project, marijuana…

Do not be fooled by ‘sound bites’. At least read the Executive Summary. Attend public meetings about the report. Talk with friends about the recommendations.

Bermuda must make drastic changes to avoid additional, expensive borrowing and a potential ratings downgrade in 2016(17).

Is Bermuda mature enough to form a group similar to the Tripartite Economic Committee (but including the PLP) to focus on agreed recommendations? Any planned changes will not succeed without support from Government, both political parties, Employers, Unions and Employees.

The entire report should not be rejected because of its political nature.  Valid critiques and alternative recommendations should not be rejected based on where they come from.

Everyone must focus on the baby – Bermuda deserves no less.