The hits and misses of G communications
by Bertha Henson
HAVE you received your latest CPF statement? Extremely colourful, isn’t it? Easy to read with pie-charts that tell you what’s in your CPF account. So much better than reading numbers in a table! I like my PUB bill as well. Not the $ figures of course, but how it now comes with a chart of past consumption. I give myself a pat every time I see that the bill has come down and try to cast my mind back to what I did differently at home.
These are small improvements in G communications that I appreciate. It is personal and more importantly, clear. If only credit card companies would attach a chart of your spending patterns in its statement! Getting cardholders to save money, however, isn’t part of its KPIs. I wish hospital bills could also be easy to read with all its subsidies, discounts and what you can deduct from Medisave or use from Medishield. In this case, however, hospitals are pretty good at having its staff members sit down with patients to explain a bill line by line. It’s the same for the Pioneer Generation Package, which has had ambassadors move round the homes to explain the benefits.
Of course, there are people who say that this is a waste of effort because your SingPass would tell you all you needed to know about your transactions with the G. But you only log in if you have an immediate problem to solve or need the information quickly, don’t you? It’s a service, while the other forms I’ve stated above can be classified as “outreach”.
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If the G is getting better at communicating at the personal level, including using dialect to reach the older folk, the same can’t be said for some of the bigger news developments recently.
I pick three issues:
a) The Committee on the Future Economy
Nearly everybody says it’s underwhelming. That’s because expectations have been raised so high that the CFE report was viewed as the panacea for all our economic ills. The language doesn’t help erase the perception that the committee of mainly Establishment faces have run out of new ideas to power the Singapore economy. To talk about developing synergies and deeper capacities is simply so much jargon to the layman. The CFE would do better to draw a map and show how the different parts of its report would work for Singapore.
To put a good face on things, you have people dissing the perception that the CFE must have new directives and those who have been looking forward to them are silly: Don’t they know that there can’t be prescriptions for such volatile times?
If the CFE report is supposed to be a clarion call to Singaporeans and companies here to gear up and seize the day, it didn’t work. It’s been 10 days since the CFE report and it’s a long time for people who wonder if today’s Budget statement would do better.
b) The culling of chickens
Who would have thought that Parliament will be talking cock today? But the AVA really cocked up its communication process in dealing with complaints from Sin Ming residents over the chicken ranging over their premises. In fact, it merely added to the divide between animal lovers and affected residents. To have one person talking about dealing with noise and another who said that it was also because of bird flu threats showed that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.
This is strange because the G is usually pretty good at giving a full reply for its actions, including throwing in the kitchen sink whether it’s needed or not. If the G thought that it was merely responding to complaints and putting up a consultative front, it didn’t work. What is worse is the attempt to shoot the messenger for getting it wrong. So what will be said in Parliament today?
c) Syonan Gallery
There was an 82-year old ST forum page letter writer who said that the justification for the name of the exhibition on the Japanese Occupation years was “nonsense”. He’s right. Those who pointed to other memorials elsewhere were misinformed. You don’t see the Jews using a name associated with Hitler to remember the Holocaust or Al-Queda attached to any 9/11 monument. The attempt to cast those who hated the name as people who wanted to bury the past was cack-handed. It showed a lack of empathy with grassroots sentiment on something as emotional as war. What would it have cost the G to change the name, even if the signboards are up, if it makes everybody happy? Face? A sign of weakness? Its decision to rename is the right one and I prefer to see it as political courage to change its mind. But the more important issue was this: how is it that the G and whoever advised them on the gallery name can be so out of touch with the ground as to even propose the name?
Anyway, let’s look forward to the Budget statement today. I have, however, one appeal for Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat: Speak the people’s language, please. The CFE report isn’t a good enough reassurance for the future. Really.
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