“There are two ways of lying. One, not telling the truth and the other, making up statistics.”
Josefina Vázquez Mota

Statistics have recently caused a real stir both in the press and in Parliament.  

“Statisticians don’t run Governments, economists do” — Finance Minister Bob Richards, Royal Gazette, August 23.  

This was in response to a report released by statistician Cordell Riley, which estimated unemployment figures could increase by as much as 2,400 in 2013.  This report threw a bucket of cold water on Mr Richards’s announcement touting the success of OBA’s payroll tax relief policy.

 He said he was unsure of what employment figures for 2013 would be as “Government does not do a good job at collecting such data” — Royal Gazette, August 23.

This announcement must have come as a bit of a surprise to the Department of Statistics, Bermuda’s national statistical agency which adheres rigorously to international standards.

Pick a number

 “Bermuda has had a declining population in the last five years, dropping by 5,000 from a population of 65,000” — Minister Richards, Royal Gazette Jun 28.  

“5,000 people have left the island in recent years.” Senator Fahy, Royal Gazette, Oct 8.  

“More than 7,000 people have left Bermuda, taking with them jobs and the business those jobs generated” — Premier Cannonier, Bernews, October 13.

When challenged to provide proof of OBA claims, Mr Richards said: “As for the loss of population of 7,000 people, that estimate has been out in the public domain for about 12 months…I believe it comes from a private sector analyst, it is not a government figure, but I have no doubt that it is in the right ballpark” — Bernews, October 16. 

Mr Richards in unsure of the source of this key demographic statistic, but he is comfortable quoting it to develop policy and present to investors?

Kill the Messengers

Throwing doubt on our leading economic and demographic statistics is a smart ploy as it allows the introduction of data from an unnamed “private sector analyst” to fit whatever narrative that the OBA wants to tell Bermudians.

Our last official population count was in the 2012 Census. Therefore, all subsequent population data are estimates calculated by using key data such as past population trends, birth and death statistics, etc. 

Making vital decisions about such issues as immigration have long-term economic, social, environmental and political implications for Bermuda.  

The OBA has a responsibility to engage the public in a national conversation about what our ideal population should be. This is key as it sets a benchmark from which we can create sound policies about education, housing, immigration, health, pensions, etc.

Bermuda, let us look beyond just numbers and political agendas of either party. It is time for us to form a national plan going forward. Where do we want Bermuda to be in the next 5-10 years?

We need to set benchmarks in regards to key targets and policies that will remain in place, irrespective of who is in control of Parliament.

We must evolve our society and economy in an ever-changing globalized environment. We clearly see that outside forces  are first and foremost, looking out for themselves.

It is time for a national vision.