Butterfield seeks quicker progress on BermudaFirst

  • Phil Butterfield, chairman of BermudaFirst (File photograph)

    Phil Butterfield, chairman of BermudaFirst (File photograph)

An implementation team to further progress of recommendations made by BermudaFirst should be led by private-sector expertise, says Phil Butterfield.

The chairman of BermudaFirst, a think-tank involving about 90 Bermudians which submitted a socio-economic plan for Bermuda five months ago, was speaking to Hamilton Rotarians yesterday.

Curtis Dickinson, the finance minister, said in his Budget statement last Friday that a portion of Cabinet Office funds would be provided to set up the implementation team that “will drive the delivery of important initiatives identified by BermudaFirst”.

The group’s recommendations include formation of an independent education authority, immigration reform aimed at promoting economic growth by providing the skills the island lacks and holistic, outcome-based healthcare reform.

Government’s willingness to fund the team was significant, Mr Butterfield said.

He added: “It affirms the Premier’s serious intent to make transformative change; it recognises and acknowledges the absence of these required skills within Government; and it exponentially improves the likelihood of success.

“BermudaFirst believes that the leadership of this team must be a private-sector resource with change management experience.”

He said BermudaFirst was working with the Government on a Senior Civil Servant Talent Assessment not only to identify gaps in the talent, skill and experience needed to deliver on major changes, but also to identify talent that would benefit from professional development.

“We expect to hear from the Premier in the next few weeks to provide his response to the full slate of recommendations,” Mr Butterfield said, “ ... and with his feedback, we can then move to the implementation planning phase of our work.”

Politicians and civil servants were deliberately excluded from BermudaFirst’s early work, at the request of David Burt, the Premier, who commissioned the report, with the aim of getting an “external view”.

This approach had created “an inevitable conflict” with government representatives, Mr Butterfield said, and he added there was now “rigorous discourse” taking place to reach a shared view.

“This does not mean that there is an absence of engagement,” he said. “The door is open and we are appreciative of the collaboration. However, accelerating the pace of the uptake of our recommendations is of utmost importance to getting our island back on track.”

Mr Butterfield was able to report some progress on BermudaFirst’s “big three” priorities — immigration, education and healthcare.

Discussions with Wayne Caines, the national security minister, had focused on “efforts to reform Bermuda’s antiquated immigration regulations and policies” to make them “suitable for the 21st century where Bermudians benefit and businesses acquire the talent required for their success”.

He added: “We are also working to develop a new narrative that will enable a robust dialogue that leads to a better understanding of immigration by all stakeholders.

“This exercise is not a winner-take-all endeavour; it will require honesty, objective listening, a willingness to change minds when factual data is shared and a willingness to reach a shared understanding.”

Mr Butterfield was challenged on immigration in the question-and-answer segment by Jimmy Brock, a Hamilton Rotarians past president and one of Mr Butterfield’s former teachers.

Mr Brock said he believed BermudaFirst’s recommendations could do damage to Bermuda and argued that the island could fill all jobs in the economy, including specialist and leadership roles, from its own population. He urged Mr Butterfield to remove immigration entirely from the think-tank’s recommendations and instead place added emphasis on education and training.

Mr Butterfield, the former chief executive officer of HSBC Bermuda and himself a product of the island’s public education system, was optimistic about discussions on potential change within the education system.

The system was “not producing the results necessary for student success in the 21st century”, he said.

“We believe we must act decisively to transform the structure, management, organisational capacity and outcomes for public education,” Mr Butterfield added.

“The reform must be driven by clarity of purpose, commitment to change by all stakeholders, meaningful metrics to report success and most importantly standards of accountability established and maintained at all levels of the new enterprise.”

He added: “The frequency and substantive content of the meetings with the Minister of Education [Diallo Rabain] points to a positive conclusion.”

On healthcare, Mr Butterfield said BermudaFirst was a participant in the Government’s Health Strategy 2020-2025 Steering Committee.

“The combination of rising costs, outcomes that do not meet our expectations, lifestyle choices that make Bermuda one of the least healthy populations in the world and the high levels of chronic diseases — all combine to represent a wake-up call,” he said.

Mr Butterfield is mindful that “broad support for transformational change must come from the community”. BermudaFirst’s engagement and communications strategy is designed to encourage that. It will host stakeholder engagement sessions, as well as traditional and social media campaign, to enable broader understanding and discussion of the recommendations.

Too often, the approach to problem resolution in Bermuda involved people “talking at” one another, Mr Butterfield said.

He urged Bermudians to be open-minded through the process. “I believe we can be fact-driven, reach reasonable conclusions and if we disagree, we can do so respectfully,” he said.

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Published Feb 26, 2020 at 8:22 am (Updated Feb 26, 2020 at 8:24 am)

Butterfield seeks quicker progress on BermudaFirst

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