Starling: We Need To Measure Quality Of Life

August 17, 2014

[Opinion column written by Jonathan Starling] It was with some degree with amazement that I read the press release from MP Susan Jackson, acting Chair of the OBA. In this press release the OBA dismisses the proposal from Opposition MP Wayne Furbert to conduct a Quality of Life survey to establish how the island is suffering economically.

Essentially, the argument from the Government knows the real situation, and the Government knows best, so there’s no need for a survey, the results of which would be public.

I’m having a hard time not seeing this as a highly arrogant and patronising argument by the Government.

And I’m certainly having trouble squaring it as coming from the same party that pre-election devoted much energy into calling for better data along a similar line as MP Furbert’s Quality of Life proposal.

To quote, for example, Trevor Moniz, writing while in Opposition in 2011: “To date, the Government has been too slow and reluctant to collect data and too slow to act. We need action, informed action. Knowing the unemployment rate is a critical component of effective action.

What a difference having power makes it seems. Pre-election promises and arguments are reversed and/or forgotten.

The regular collection and analysis of key statistical data, including novel datasets like that proposed by MP Furbert, helps us collectively measure our progress and identify problems. This was recognised by the 2013 SAGE report, which argued for a greater use of performance indicators for informing policy and measuring progress.

To quote a 2012 UNICEF report [PDF] : “It is monitoring that makes possible evidence-based policy, political accountability, informed advocacy and the cost-effective use of limited public resources. The availability of timely data is therefore in itself an indicator…”

And Bermuda already has a precedent, of sorts, for a Quality of Life survey, in the form of the 2008 report ‘Low-Income Thresholds – A Study of Bermuda Households in Need’ [PDF]. While a Quality of Life survey would likely go beyond what this excellent report did, the measurement of poverty in Bermuda that it represents provides a key element of such a survey.

That the former PLP Government chose not to provide regular updates to this excellent report is, quite frankly, a shame and an embarrassment. And that the OBA today rejects a proposal to finally build on it with a Quality of Life survey compounds this.

And the OBA’s dismissive response to MP Furbert’s proposal is all the more surprising seeing as the pre-election the OBA was happy to reference the 2008 report to discuss the problem of inequality as part of a take note Senate motion on ‘the increasing problem of Poverty in Bermuda and the need for solutions to reduce the impact of poverty on our community’ .

Regularly measuring Bermuda’s Quality of Life, or even regular updates to the Low-Income Thresholds report, and related measures of inequality in Bermuda would help inform public policy decisions based, improve accountability and allow for the cost-effective use of public resources.

To put it simply, if we don’t measure, monitor, and report on things, then we can’t make progress.

Not measuring means ineffective – or non-existent – policies and a failure to identify problems, trends and long-term consequences.

Not measuring may allow governments, be they OBA, PLP or other, to avoid accountability for the consequences of their actions or inactions – and so avoid political embarrassment by putting party before country – but we all pay for the consequences of such short-sighted and arrogant ‘governing’.

We need to measure Quality of Life, and inequality and poverty more generally, on a regular basis. And beyond that we also need to set clear targets and timelines for improving Bermuda’s quality of life and reducing both poverty and inequality in our island.

- Jonathan Starling

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Comments (15)

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  1. Navin Johnson says:

    if you lived here or spent a little more time here you would have a clue as to the quality of life….you are probably better suited to ask about the quality of life in Scotland than Bermuda

  2. Kangoocar says:

    After the plp chased out approx 5000 foreigners ( the money earners ) life sucks for many people and the sad part is, it sucks even worst for most of their blind supporters!! ! And yet they don’t even know they are worse off now than they were 14yrs ago???? With that said, why don’t we just let the OBA continue doing what that they are doing and life will become a lot better for all Bermudians, and that includes the plper’s!!!!! Once the economy is on a more secure ground then I say we should do this, right now it is a complete waste of time and energy that would have been better spent getting this economy moving!!! Why am I not surprised that starling/plp are more interested in wasting time???

  3. Coffee says:

    Pre election OBA did the smiling for the post election vicious UBP . There you have it folks in a nutshell ! They care not about you or your family ! Now is the time to take what is yours , as they are helping themselves in such an unsavory way !

    • Navin Johnson says:

      Coffee could you translate what you are trying to say?

  4. Rhonda says:

    Studies are done, with the hope of seeking trust and taking action…why would the OBA do a study…

  5. Marksman says:

    Many Bermudians have changed the way they spend money and what they buy due to the economy also the
    cloudy Future of Bermuda. – many have taken Pay cuts, many are still out of work, and many are only working a couple of days
    a week, so were once we were big spenders ,now we have cut down by 20% – some cases there is absolutely no money left over
    once the Basic bills are paid.
    I don’t think that a Quality of Life Committee or a Survey is necessary because we already know that the Quality of Life
    in Bermuda has deteriorated by 30%.
    Note the Retail index is down – and will continue to fall as Bermudians become penny pinchers.

  6. coolieh says:

    In a time when we are BROKE, why waste more money? Why can’t broad economic measurements be used until such time as we’ve resolved Bermuda’s MAJOR issues. Isn’t the unemployment rate/GDP movements/balance of payments (a whole host of statistics we already track) sufficient metrics in order to determine if progress is being made, i.e. towards more jobs and hence quality of life?

    The key job of leaders/management, etc. is the prioritization of competing matters/projects. Leaders understand the issue of economic rationing and plan accordingly, usually in line with their strategy (objectives). We are BROKE for god’s sake! So why do some people continue to think there is infinite resources (money) to do this and do that?

    Continual bombardment of government with this and that frankly takes government’s attention away from what is MOST important…getting the economy going and our finances back in order. Somehow of late common purpose and common sense, given our financial situation, has been totally lost. Continual manufacturing of crisis irrelevant to getting us back to work (i.e. Tucker Town, governor recall) and related demands to spend monies on such things, although they may be relevant but not overtly important at this juncture, is simply folly!

    Frankly, the last government failed in realizing there are finite resources that should be ONLY utilized for important/strategic initiatives. Neither did they have a sense of balance about what’s important to “BERMUDA”, for example reducing spending when economic down turn was initially identified. Wasn’t this one of the key drivers for a change of government? Well, I see more of the same!

    I’m glad you’re not in government, as you appear to suffer the same inability to realize what is important (at a point in time) versus what is NOT. This doesn’t mean an issue is not relevant, but there needs to be rationalized priority attached to an issue!

    That’s the real reason why you’re shocked!


  7. Mumbojumbo says:

    Quality is abundantly clear, call fo a study is more spending on a thing that is obvious….how many rubbishing studies do you need? Fine have one……but you pay for it….there are thongs we don’t know that need knowing,,,,you knowit….I know it…..but it seems ….you need to hold it in your hand before the cognisance sets in…..what don’t you know Wayne?….what?….it,the thing you don’t know is abundant and clear!As it is how we got this way.You remind me of beaver asking Wally what the deal was…..”er gee Wallly…..sheeesh….jiminy williacahs…….don’t you think this is so?”…..”Gee beave…..I dunno….”,it’s like not knowing the sun is outor it is raining,and in your kind of work,not to know that is contemptuous!

  8. Tell us .... says:

    Jon, tell us exactly what information that a Quality of Life survey would capture that isn’t already collected.

    You (and the PLP) have told us that “it” is necessary but you haven’t told us what “it” is.

    • Toodle-oo says:

      Only an individual can honestly assess their personal quality of life .
      We all know people who seem not to have two dimes to rub together who are at peace with themselves and very happy . Then there are people who have more than most of us can dream of who are miserable.

      Does living in a huge house with a BMW parked outside and 4 trips a year = ‘high quality of life’? (It isn’t if you’re in debt for $2Mill)
      Does living in a studio , riding a 2nd hand moped and no trips = ‘poor quality of life’ ? (It isn’t if you have NO debt)

      Or is this just another exercise to highlight ,without any explanations or rationalization , the fact that there are ‘haves and have nots’ just to wind up a bunch of people who are already wound up ?

  9. Cow Polly says:

    The OBA is focused on resolving our problems and does not need any further distracting suggestions from the PLP or Jonathan Starlings of this world. However there is nothing stopping you and/or the PLP from performing and financing the survey yourselves IF you feel that passionately about it.

  10. We Are Not Amused! says:

    Memo to Starling and plp:-

    WE the People KNOW what the quality of life is like,

    It’s gone down the toilet and the plp took the paper away!

  11. JUNK YARD DOG says:

    When is the Government going to parallel the Tax income with the Economy . Take your hands out of out pockets.

    For crying out, do something! stop the white washing and sweeping stuff under the carpet.

    We are a depressed people living in a distressed country the people are angry, frustrated, disappointed, and unhappy.

    We are all ” sitting on the fence.

    Foe a Man out of work is very degrading and deprives him of his self worth.

    Wonder why Bermuda is too expensive for our visitors it is heavy taxes that get passed on, by the way, I could not afford or want to afford a vacation in one of Bermuda’s “X” star hotels there is nothing to do but go to the beach at $16.00 a hit.

    Why are we twenty years behind all the other destinations?

    Because it costs to much of people’s hard earned savings to come here.

    For us to compete we all need to come together.

    Might start by showing a little respect.

    Do you want me to tell you what brought the British Empire to its knees !

    We are headed down the same road.

  12. Alvin Williams says:

    So the migrant workers are Bermuda’s main economic engine so Kangoocar would have us believe; but do you hear a great sucking sound- if I can coin the comment of one of America’s economic exiles living in Bermuda.
    That right a great sucking sound that is heard as the money earn in Bermuda goes through the doors of the three money shops on their way to foreign destinations. Not to mention that which leaves the country from the top. And the Bermudian well his money remains in the country circulating through Bermuda’s economy. The Bermudian the back bone of Bermuda’s economy. Of course Kangoocar along with this OBA government does not believe that; that why they continue to sing the praises of the foreign worker and of course that’s why the anti-Bermudian OBA government does not want anything to do with a measurement of a quality of life survey for Bermudians because the only quality of life they are concern with is that of the foreign worker and they are doing just fine thank you.

  13. Mumbojumbo says:

    Tcd has gotten arrogant…..really arrogant.