Able-bodied foreigners are flying in to Singapore on a tourist visa selling tissue paper on the streets. At 3 packets for S$1, these foreign beggers compete with Singaporean poor for street donations, who unlike them, are licensed by the National Environment Agency (NEA).

Under the NEA, Singaporean poor, who are often handicapped and elderly unable to find employment, are only allowed to peddle tissue paper in specific areas and have to pay S$120 annual license upfront. Foreign tissue peddlers are however not entitled to these “privileges” and they will make a quick buck in and out avoiding the authorities whose resources are already overstrained by the increase in crime rate.

Photo from Gintai
Photo from Gintai

For the first six months of 2015, NEA caught 72 foreign illegal peddlers selling tissue paper, mobile phone accessories, clothes and other goods. Those who were caught at fined S$300 for the first offense and this applies to Singaporeans as well.

Foreign tissue peddlers who are usually from China, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar would trawl local coffee shops and fastfood restaurants, or simply loiter at one spot half-begging. They would earn between S$20 to S$100 for a few hours of “work”. According to The Straits TImes, a 65 year old  Thai woman said that she earned S$50 in a few hours.

According to the NEA, there are only 11 licensed street tissue peddlers in Singapore which means the hundreds, if not thousands, in Singapore streets are mostly illegal. In an interview with the media, 65 year old tissue paper seller Goh Say Lian who is blind in one eye and having kidney failure lambaste the foreign tissue peddlers:

“They are able-bodied and can walk, yet they come here to sell tissue paper and snatch business from us”

The Singapore PAP government has just been returned to power with a strong mandate of 69.86%. It is unlikely the government will enforce stricter immigration laws now that the election is just over. Singaporean poor will likely see greater foreign competition which the government often attributed to “globalization”.