SAGE offers a fresh perspective
One of Bermuda’s great resources is the dynamism and financial savvy of our international businesspeople and many local entrepreneurs. Too often though, their skills and expertise bypass the public sector, primarily because these enterprising people are too busy creating jobs and prosperity through their successful businesses.
So it is heartening to read of the formation of the Spending and Government Efficiency Commission (SAGE), which will involve a group of these business types — giving their time for free — helping Government find ways to climb its way out of a fiscal hole.
Heading up SAGE is Brian Duperreault, a leading light of the global insurance industry in recent decades. We can trust that a man who has led such global giants as Ace and Marsh & McLennan will not be overawed by the scale of Bermuda Government finances. Mr Duperreault’s leadership of SAGE is encouraging for taxpayers. Apart from his high-finance credentials, he has substantial ‘skin in the game’, as one of the investors in the project to build a resort on the former US Naval Annex at Morgan’s Point, and thus will have every incentive to see a successful effort to stabilise public finances.
Some within the Civil Service have concerns about SAGE, however, particularly their own lack of representation on the Commission. The Bermuda Public Services Union has suggested that methods effective in business might not work in a public-sector environment. While that is a valid point, Mr Duperreault’s comments to this newspaper, signalling the importance of “broad-based consultation” and the opportunities for groups and individuals to put forward their views, should at least partly assuage the BPSU’s concerns.
And although SAGE is unelected, it has no power to make policy or operational decisions, only to make recommendations to elected representatives. The Opposition has expressed fears of inadequate regulation and potential conflicts of interest. But those risks are far outweighed by the risk of Government failing to come up with ways of doing things more efficiently and so continuing on the path to unsustainable indebtedness.
Few would disagree that in its current predicament, Government has little choice but to reduce spending. SAGE will offer a fresh perspective on how that can be done from people who know a lot about efficiency. It is in the interests of all taxpayers that it succeeds.
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