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$50 for the best punchline

Funny or not, sometimes it pays to have a sense of humour about the serious matters of state. Case in point: In response to predictions about more job losses before the year is out Finance Minister Bob Richards was quoted as saying, “statisticians don't run governments, economists do”. Now, I don't know about you but on reading this I kept thinking there was a punch line there somewhere. Like: “Really! So that's the problem.” Or: “Okay, now we know who is in charge around here.” Or: “Hey, aren't there any other choices?”

It's often also been said that there's many a truth in jest. So let's have some fun this week. You come up with the best punch line and share it with me (and your fellow readers) and I will hand over $50 to the person who delivers what I think is the best line.

I know it is not as much as the SAGE Commission is offering, but let's keep your task here in perspective. Not always an easy thing to do here in Bermuda, I know. Another case in point: at or about the same time SAGE Chairman Brian Duperreault was quoted as saying, “something's got to give”. He was referring to the $300-million deficit which Government expects to incur this year (most of which is on account of salaries), along with massive unfunded pension liabilities, and all of this on top of a $1.5 billion public debt.

Whilst I appreciate the options here are limited (in the absence of some unforeseen windfall in revenue some time soon, like yesterday) the trouble is that the ‘give' means some things will have to be taken, away. No easy task when you are talking about people's lives and livelihoods.

Whatever they come up with, it has to be a plan that has to be seen to start to bite at the top and then works its way down.

It won't change a thing to say what could or would or should have been the case. But we learn from our past. In all seriousness now, never mind who is around the table, whether they be statisticians and economists, I expect more people would like to see Government spending, now and in the future, kept simple regardless of which party is in power: spend only what you collect, and, if you must borrow, borrow only within our means.

Of course, there is a fine line between giving the people what they want and what they need. Another, and final case in point — and, no, this is not about gambling and whether or not we should or should not have a referendum. This is about the selection of a controversial US educator to be Bermuda's next Education Commissioner.

We all know that our system of public education could use an overhaul. The new Government has committed to making improvements. I also know that the choice was that of an independent selection committee and ultimately the Public Service Commission, and not the Minister. Still, you would have thought the Minister (and thus Government) might have been consulted somewhere along the way, knowing that the successful candidate was going to be a lightning rod for criticism that could only have been reasonably anticipated not just because he is non-Bermudian but because of his history and experience elsewhere.

Yet the substantive Minister for Education was conspicuously absent at the announcement and thus silent on the day of what is, on any view, a critically important appointment in education.

Who knows: it may be that they have an omelette in mind and are prepared to crack a lot of eggs to get there?

For my money, if we were truly looking to think outside the box here, we could do no better than look to some place like Finland which is gaining a reputation throughout the world for the first-class education it provides its people. They have a whole different approach to educators over there and educators, in turn, have a whole different approach to education — and it works well.

Finally, may you never labour in vain, and enjoy your holiday.

• Write jbarritt@ibl.bm with your views or join in on The Royal Gazette website (www.royalgazette.com).

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Published August 30, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated August 29, 2013 at 4:35 pm)

$50 for the best punchline

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