Friday, January 6, 2012

Singapore Ministers' Pay Cut: The Importance of Correctly Identifying Stakeholder Concerns in a Crisis

It is interesting to note the response from the public on the cuts in ministerial pay. This, in my opinion, is a classic example of a “damned if I do and damned if I don't” scenario.

So what can crisis communicators learn from this? 

To me, the main lesson to be learnt is the need to accurately identify the issue or concern of the stakeholder in a crisis.  The  issue of high ministerial is not a new one and has been a thorn in the side of many since it was first introduced.  The opposition parties had been trying to politicize the issue in past elections but failed.  If we look back at the recent General Election, ministerial pay became a political lightening rod only when it became apparent that Tin Pei Ling was all but guaranteed to become a Member of Parliament (and earn the high pay) when she was announced as a candidate in a Group Representative Committee led by the then Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong. This was despite overwhelming public perception that she was not “qualified” for the position.

This, in my assessment, was the trigger that politicized the issue of high ministerial. And, if my assessment is correct, then reducing ministerial salary does not address stakeholders' concerns.  To me, the real issue is the apparent lack of transparency in determining who is entitled to the ministerial pay. Thus, unless this "real" stakeholder issue is addressed, ministerial pay will continue to be at the forefront of public discontent.

In summary, the need to do a proper stakeholder analysis in a crisis can not be understated.  Failure to identify the "correct" issue, will only result in ineffective crisis response strategies being developed and executed.

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