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Welcome to Fortress IMF
Sep 21, 06 | 7:59 am
Yeoh Siew Hoon (www.thetransitcafe.com
) reports from Singapore which is currently in the grips of IMF-dom.
The first taxi driver refused to take me, giving me a look that said, you must be kidding. Why would anyone go to Raffles City when these guys are still in town?
The second one agreed to take me, and then proceeded to share his thoughts with me on this whole IMF shindig. He also had to think about what route to take ecause not all roads lead to Rome these days. In the end, other than a bottleneck at one point, the traffic wasn't as bad as all had imagined it to be.
The Swissotel Stamford's lobby, though, looked like a fortress with security checks and police everywhere. I had to walk through a metal detector.
I had been warned by my friend whom I was meeting, who was staying at the hotel, not to wear any clothes. “They will ask you to take it all off, anyway,” he said.
I erred on the side of caution. I decided that arriving nude would probably raise more alarm bells than being dressed in minimal gear that could be shed in a shirk.
Inside the hotel was a hive of activity. Delegates were everywhere, all proceeding to their private functions. You can tell they are delegates because they look important and they wear badges.
I asked my friend whom I was meeting why he was staying at this hotel. He was in town for business and I had thought all sane business travellers would have stayed away from Singapore at this time let alone, stay in an IMF official hotel.
He said he had been so busy he hadn't checked where his local office had put him. “It was only when I got on the plane that I looked at my hotel slip and then I realised, oh no, all the IMF people are going to be here too,” he said.
So each night, he's had to walk back to his hotel because it’s quicker and besides, few taxis want to go where ordinary folks fear to tread.
I find it an irony really here's an event which ordinary folks have been told to welcome with open hearts. Yet, you can't even get near them or the area.
You have to wonder what is this world coming to when folks who make decisions about our world economy have to be protected from the very people who are impacted by their decisions?
Meanwhile, the media rage continues to boil over despite the Singapore government's last-minute decision to allow in some of the “blacklisted” individuals this after very stern remarks from World Bank bossman, Paul Wolfowitz. Bad boy, he told Singapore, waggling his finger.
Too little too late, said some of the bodies. “Our delegates aren't going to come now,” they said.
The news in the international media continues to be about the sideshow, not the main show. Don’t believe me? Just google “IMF Singapore” and the top headlines read: “World Bank, IMF: Singapore tarnished”. “Singapore stops opposition protest”. “Singapore agrees to admit globalization foes”. “Singapore police probe three for IMF protest plan”. “Activists say might take legal action against Singapore”. “Singapore activist ban ‘authoritarian’: Wolfowitz”.
It’s only towards the end of the first page where you see a headline about that reads, “IMF’s reforms are not enough” with a series of articles discussing the reforms announced by IMF to increase voting rights for China, Mexico, South Korea and Turkey.
So what lessons can be learnt from a public relations standpoint?
I think the first lesson from all this is always to expect the expected.
This was always expected to happen. Singapore is known to be strict about protests. IMF-World Bank is known to attract protestors like flies to rubbish.
I know. It’s always easier on hindsight. But we ordinary folks somehow do expect people who run the world or big companies to be smarter about stuff than we are. Otherwise why would we trust them with our safety, livelihoods and our money?
It's like Hong Kong Disneyland and the shark's fin public relations debacle. You could have seen the fin coming.
I think everyone could learn a thing or two from Osama bin Laden in public relations. I was reading an article in New York Times the other day that hailed him as master public relations strategist of all time.
The article dated September 12, titled “Osama’s Spin Lessons”, written by John Tierney, began, “Somewhere, Osama bin Laden must be smiling. Or at least he will be whenever his couriers deliver the next batch of press clippings. Once again he has beaten America at an American game: public relations.”
The point of the article is that this is a man who hides in a cave.
No one quite knows where he is. But he sure makes his presence felt, always at the right moment. So on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, what does he do? He makes his presence felt.
It's like he expects the expected.
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