Singaporeans slam NEA's $120 licence requirement for tissue sellers

Singaporeans slam NEA's $120 licence requirement for tissue sellers

Singaporeans on social media reacted angrily to news that tissue sellers at hawker centres and street corners are being required to pay for an annual licence.

This came from a statement made by the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Tuesday afternoon in response to an online letter on the issue.

The NEA noted that the “nominal fee” of $120 a year, or $10 a month, “entitles them to peddle their wares at fixed locations without having to pay any rent”.

Tissue peddlers, therefore, fall within this category of street hawkers, and are required to pay $120 for annual licences to sell tissue in public, and those who do not are in breach of the laws against itinerant hawking, it said.

In a post on its Facebook page earlier this week, it said that of the 362 people who have been issued licences to sell ice cream, nuts, crackers, canned drinks, costume jewellery, newspapers, phone cards and toiletries, only 11 are tissue paper sellers.

They stressed, however, that peddlers who are needy are referred to “relevant agencies” by the NEA for “appropriate assistance”.

Commenting on the post, users criticised the NEA for lacking compassion and for being “disgraceful”.

Said Eric Chiew, “I believe that whoever came up with this idiocy has no idea what the word ‘compassion’ means. Think about it, if they weren’t needy, would they be out on the streets selling tissue paper? Honestly, just leave them alone, did they bother you?”

“Dear NEA, where is your compassion and spirit of charity?” asked Engie Ho. “Do you not realize that they are unemployed and are having trouble finding employment?… Do you seriously want to fine beggars?”

Another user Yeo Yeu Ann noted that from her anecdotal experience, one man she spoke to was unsuccessful in applying for a tissue-selling licence despite going to his Member of Parliament repeatedly, even though selling tissue is “the only thing he can do”.

“I. AM. ANGRY. This is the kind of ‘tai-chi’, pass-the-buck attitude that reflects EXTREMELY poorly on the NEA,” she wrote. “Please look into a more reasonable solution… please do the right thing. Not stupid things like this.”

“Leave them alone! They’re not hurting anyone!” added another user named Sushikin Ky.

The letter that was published on local website The Real Singapore, where its writer, relating a conversation he had with a visually-impaired tissue seller, asked why they were required to fork out the amount for the licence.

According to Today, the NEA’s licence scheme for street hawkers began in the year 2000. Spokespersons for them said also that unlicensed tissue paper sellers will be warned against hawking if they are found doing so.

“If they ignore the warning, the NEA will take enforcement action against them, just as it does for other illegal hawkers,” it was quoted as saying.

The daily also reported that NEA has since 2012 taken action against 11 unlicensed tissue paper sellers.