Saturday, March 3, 2012

Budget 2012 Debate: Online uproar over DPM Tharman’s ‘$1k flat’ Statement

The recent uproar over DPM Tharman's statement that households earning $1,000 dollars a month can afford to purchase their own 2-room HDB flats did not come as a surprise to me. This is because while it is possible (as Minister of State Tan Chuan Jin helped explain in his Facebook page), Netizens in general feel that it is not realistic and the common theme was about the spartan lifestyle one had to live as a result of owning a home.

As a crisis communicator, I attribute the uproar to DPM Tharman's statement failing to acknowledge the concerns of Netizens. Building from the recent General Election and the issue of high Ministerial Pay, Netizens' are concerned about how detached our Ministers are from the people they are elected to serve. DPM Tharman's statement, and MOS Tan Chuan Jin's clarifications, while factually correct, fail to address Netizen's concerns as anecdotal evidence suggests that it is impossible for a family of four to live off $1,000 per month. After all, a simple meal at the hawker centre already costs $3.50 per person, transport fares are at least $1.20 per person per trip and PUB and Gas prices are rising.

In my opinion, DPM Tharman would have done a better job in responding to NMP Gerald Giam's question if he understood that Stakeholders are not concerned about affordability of the HDB, but about the government's perceived detachment from the people – an understanding that can only be derived if a proper stakeholder analysis had been done.

On a separate note, while I cannot know for sure if the question posted by Gerald Giam is part of the Workers' Party overall strategy for the next General Election, but suffice to say, DPM Tharman's response has helped to reinforce the perception that our Ministers are detached from ground reality. And if the PAP is not careful, this is a powerful campaign theme that will definitely swing voters in favour of the opposition.


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(Note: I will be conducting a 1-Day Workshop on "Leading Crisis Communications in the Era of Social Media" on 30 March 2012. If you are a communications professional and want to (a) learn and understand how to perform a Stakeholder Analysis; and (b) use Themes and Messages in a crisis, do sign-up for the Workshop.  You can email me at justin@cwfongandassocaites.com for more details)

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