The Singapore Government Doublespeak Dictionary

The Singapore Government Doublespeak Dictionary

By Masked Crusader

Understanding what the government really means when they say something isn’t particularly difficult for Singaporeans born and bred in the People’s Action Party era.

However, close to half our population is made up of either foreigners or new citizens who risk accepting at face value the explanation of a Minister attempting to explain a government policy to the public.

Foreigners may lack the finesse required to read between the lines when a Minister says, for example, that Singapore is currently experiencing a very “tight labour market” and is in need of more “foreign talents”.

Some words or phrases such as “constructive politics” or “scandalizing the judiciary” may be bamboozling even for indigenous Singaporeans.

With the percentage of Singapore-born citizens expected to dwindle rapidly as we approach 2030, I thought it would be useful to develop The Singapore Government Doublespeak Dictionary as a resource to the foreigners residing here as well as international businesses and tourists who aspire to understand such local concepts as “party political film”, “responsible speech” or “Group Representation Constituency”.

I start here with a handful of words which have been bandied about recently but hope to eventually increase this resource to about 200 words and phrases—terms most vital for interpreting officialdom in Singapore.
Readers are most welcome to propose terms they would like to see included in future—and even provide definitions. These will be included in future posts. Remember, appropriate terms would be ones used by the elite, not street lingo which should instead be referred to the publishers of The Coxford Singlish Dictionary. A handy pocketbook dictionary (including in Tagalog, Hindi, Chinese, etc) is planned in the future.

I hope you find this first installment of ten terms (presented in no particular order) useful.

Tripartite alliance (also see tripartism)
1. An unholy and unique collusion between the government, employers, and fat union officials in denying workers what they deserve.
e.g. The tripartite alliance explained that its recent initiative is aimed at maximizing the upside for low-wage workers while concurrently minimizing the downside.

Tripartism (also see tripartite alliance)
1. n. An arrangement where no member of the tripartite alliance takes responsibility for screwing the worker.
2. n. Being screwed by three parties at the same time.
e.g. Due to tripartism, the union, management and government came to an amicable arrangement on behalf of the aggrieved workers, the Minister declared proudly.

Tight labour market
1. Complaints by SMEs and GLCs that they need more labour at slave wages.
2. Singaporeans are too expensive.
e.g. Unemployment has increased, but of equal concern is that employers are struggling due to a tight labour market.

1. That which must increase for wages not to regress further.
e.g. Regardless of inflation, it is untenable for salaries to go up without an increase in productivity, said the MP.

GDP growth
1. Higher bonuses for ministers and civil servants.
2. A warning to the general populace that they must not relent in their work ethics as gloom and doom is predicted.
e.g. The government, obviously, is pleased to see GDP growth of 3.2% but turbulence in the U.S. market and shifting winds in Europe mean Singaporeans cannot afford to take it for granted that growth will continue indefinitely.

Unlock the equity in HDB flats
1. To trade-in a comfortable flat with a long lease for a cubicle with a short lease to survive upon retirement.
2. To sell one’s flat to live in a retirement home in Johor.
3. To live in one room of your own flat whilst renting out all other rooms to get by.
e.g. Many may not be aware of the income potential of their home and how they can unlock the equity in their HDB flat, the Minister explained amid thunderous applause in the auditorium.

Party Political Film (also see Political Films Consultative Panel)
1. A film about a politician or a political party that may be banned or may be allowed. It just depends.
2. A film which is serious, factual, and 100% true, and without distorted pictures, graphics, animation, and emotive language.
3. A film that must, by law, be boring and unappealing to its viewer.
e.g. The official explained that assessing a party political film is not an exact science hence it would not be possible to be too specific about what is allowed or disallowed.

Political Films Consultative Committee (also see Party Political Film)
1. An inactive panel of important people who may be called on to ascertain if a film is sufficiently boring to be considered allowable for public consumption.
2. A panel of inexact scientists.
e.g. The spokesman explained the view of the PFCC is that, although the contents of the film seemed factual and the language used did not appear to be emotive, it would be prudent to err on the side of caution and ban it for the time being.

Constructive Politics
1. Politics of a variety practiced exclusively by the People’s Action Party.
2. Something that can help Singapore scale new heights.
e.g. Only through constructive politics can our nation progress, said the President during a riveting and emotional speech which received rapturous applause from a segment of enthusiastic parliamentarians.

Destructive Politics
1. Politics of a variety practiced by opposition parties in Singapore as well as all parties in western democracies.
2. A virulent form of politics that will doom the country.
3. Flip-flopping on positions taken on important issues without acknowledging the practice and apologizing for it.
e.g. Since we engage in constructive politics and you stand opposed to our view on this issue, one can only conclude that you prefer destructive politics and the ways of the devil, the Minister opined pounding his fist on the table.

This post was first published at

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments