BI lessons from political storytelling.
The Belgian Federal Government is juggling figures to prove to their population they are implementing structural cuts on government spending. Not. It is a known fact that politics and Business Intelligence don’t go together. If nobody in the cockpit shares ideas about the causality of things and nobody shares objectives with the others than you have a political situation where BI can only be abused for the various agendas in the coalition.
Have a look at the stats from the Belgian National Bank:
Table: Federal Government Income and Spending
The explanation from the present coalition is hilarious: we are implementing structural cuts and only because of the endless government formation talks in 2010 the budget derailed.
It is true that in 2010 spending rose but relative to GDP growth it climbed lower than in 2011 and in 2012, a massive increase in taxes and excises combined with a freeze on spending reduced the gap a bit. But over the entire period –where the same political coalition was at the helm of the Belgian Titanic- expenditures grew with 18.8% compared to GDP growth of 13 % and taxes also exploded with 18.1%. Telling the people and the EU authorities that Belgium is in control of its budget is not quite the truth…
The problem with this story is the Belgian press (excluding the financial press) who is repeating and reprinting this PR message without any critique whatsoever.
This shows that figures need the right story to convey the message to the audience because if people, even trained communication experts like journalists, can choose between a narration or a table filled with figures, they’ll go for the story.
Remember that when you explain the figures to your management.