Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A Cabinet with Celebrities Complex

This is the advice of noted economist Faisal Basri to Dr Sri Mulyani Indrawati, the minister of finance. "Shut your mouth!" Not exactly like that, off course. Basri praised president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's decision to appoint Mulyani and Dr Boediono as coordinating minister for economy.
"They would make a good team. They know exactly what to do," Basri said.
But one advice for Sri Mulyani. "Please do not talk too much. Let the chief economic minister as the spokeperson."
Journalist hate that! Dr Boediono was tight-lipped on most questions as minister of finance.
As for Dr Sri Mulyani, that would be a hard call. She emerged as 'noted economist' because of her regular comments and appearance in the glass box, radio, newspapers, magazines, and seminars. She is a kind of celebrity economist. She loves to entertain public, even though she is not a publicity seeker. Media loves to interview her and she enjoy that.
I don't know how she could handle that.
A celebrity tend to has narcissist behaviour, and according to psychology studies, she/he is concerned with the reactions to her fame: people watch her/him, notice her/him, talk about her/him, debate her/his actions--therefore she/he exist.
I am afraid that in the cabinet, so many ministers are acting like celebrities. They care to much on their personal public image. Look at how they become stars in TV or newspaper ads? Education minister paid one full-page of advetorial at Kompas on his performance. Minister of agriculture is the star of a TV ad campaign to prevent bird flu. Minister of domestic affairs paid regular ads on his achievement on local leaders election. Minister of health for dengue fever prevention campaign.
Look at how news outlet full with their statements? All news would start with...government will do this and that...
And, this one is even more complicated. Their bosses, the president and vice president, are celebrities type of leaders too. They entertain almost every questions from journalist and the rumors. Look at how SBY respond the rumor that he announced the cabinet reshuffle in Yogyakarta State Place because of superstitious belief. The Vice President also easy to comment on everything, even though sometimes ridiculous. And our Central Bank Governor is far away from a Greenspan-type of officer.
In the age of media dominance, together with the declining trust on political parties, leaders tend to mobilize policy support via the media. The interest of politics merge with the interest of media. The problem is when policy makers tend to make statements only to create good image and fantasies. Then you get a politic-publicity-complex.
You know the risk when they easily open their mouths? They would easily change their statements along with conflicting indicators and numbers. They would risk the continuing depreciation of statements. So, my advice, this cabinet should take a short course on public communication.

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Blogger Kahlil said...

I hope this restraint is not applicable to celebrity analyst, like Faisal! ... :-)

December 08, 2005 1:53 PM  
Anonymous Bram said...

I would recommend that IndoPacific provide the cabinet with media training. Actually, the directors at Bank Indonesia are also urgently in need of being signed up for media training. Just look at their comments about the Rupiah on Bloomberg. Duh! Compared to them Homer Simpson is a smart guy.

December 09, 2005 3:50 PM  

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