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Budget 2018: Iswaran balances selling it, and explaining it

Blog post   •   Feb 20, 2018 18:35 +08

Each week until April 30, 2018, we are shortlisting a local corporate figure who has demonstrated excellence in a media appearance, in the Hong Bao Media Savvy Awards 2018.

Politicians are not exactly known for answering questions directly. In fact, sometimes people who evade questions are derided for "speaking like a politician".

But our shortlisted candidate for the Hong Bao Media Savvy Awards 2018 this week breaks the mould.

Trade & Industry Minister S Iswaran struck a balance between responding credibly to technical or difficult questions and selling the just-announced Budget 2018, in a Bloomberg Markets Asia interview this morning with my good friend Haslinda Amin.

I concede he is an unusual candidate for the Hong Bao Media Savvy Awards 2018 because he is a politician. But he has a strong commercial background, being Director of Strategic Development at Singapore Technologies from 1996-1998, and Managing Director of Investments at Temasek Holdings from 2003-2006.

Now, you might disagree with the contents of the Budget, but that's not the focus here.

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We launched the Hong Bao Media Savvy Awards to recognise senior local leaders for their communications skills, and to showcase authentic and credible home-grown communicators. Here are our previous nominees:

Desmond Kuek: Will you resign?

Are you a demanding boss, Lee Lik Hsin?

Star Alliance CEO: Local business leader is a star media performer

These are shining examples for other local business leaders to follow, and to build a culture of excellence in communication, to maximise the potential of Asian companies in the Asian Century.

Each week until April 30, 2018, we are shortlisting a local corporate figure who has demonstrated excellence in a media appearance for the Hong Bao Media Savvy Awards 2018.

Click on the link below to enter yourself or another Senior Business Leader.

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I have shortlisted Iswaran for the Hong Bao Media Savvy Awards 2018 this week for these reasons:

  1. Credibility – Throughout the interview Iswaran reinforces that (in case you missed it) Singapore is a good place to do business, and that – despite the proposed GST increase and Carbon Tax – Singapore remains relatively competitive. But he does this in a relatively subtle way. He conceded that taxes would rise, but gave valuable, non-evasive, substantive answers to Has' questions on the national reserves, property taxes, rising protectionism, even electric vehicles. All in a calm, relaxed tone.
  2. Examples – Iswaran backed up his points with examples, and he made them relatable to the audience. For example, he explained technology trends pose a challenge to every sector, "whether you're a taxi business, retail business, accounting firm, law firm and even doctors." In relation to property taxes, he said "If you buy a $2 million dollar property you pay another $10,000 in tax". Again, you might not be happy about the budget measure, but Iswaran put it into context in a way anyone can understand.
  3. Sticking to what he knows – Iswaran doesn't offer answers on topics where he is not an expert. For example, when Has asked about the recent rout in the financial markets, he retorted, "Well, you categorised it as turmoil, some may call it a healthy correction. I'm not a pundit so I'm not going to venture there…" As a Senior Business Leader, you can be expected to know about your company, your industry, and have a view on the state of the economy. But you can't be expected to offer an opinion on absolutely everything. Where would that end?!

To be sure, the interview wasn't perfect. Not least, I disagree that you should wear pink on camera to look more friendly and approachable. S Iswaran managed to do that anyway, and so he is a fitting candidate for the Hong Bao Media Savvy Awards 2018.

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