A friend once asked the Public Service Commission if the overseas university degree he had planned to pursue would be recognised in Singapore. The answer he received from the Administration Officer was, "Why don't you go for the study first, and we will advise you when you return?"
National Solidarity Party's Christopher Neo made a mistake of seeking permission from the National Environment Agency (NEA) to sell their newsletter. "Despite our advice to them not to hawk without a licence, they proceeded as planned, " explained the NEA spokesman. NEA is charged under the Street Hawking Scheme to issue hawker licences for the needy to make a living. To qualify, hawkers need to be older than 45 years, jobless longer than 3 months and in financial difficulties. If we are to believe the Agency very few Singaporeans are in such destitute state.
This year, out of 71 applications, only 3 have been approved, 2 for selling newspapers, and 1 selling ice-cream. The bulk of the NEA manpower is dedicated to conducting raids on illegal hawking, a financially more lucrative exercise. In the last 3 years, an average of 10,000 summonses a year were issued. Despite glowing reports of economic recovering, 3,800 summonses were issued for the first 5 months of this year alone, in line with past statistics. We are not told what happens to those who can't afford to pay the fines. Half of those caught by the 31 NEA officers were peddling foodstuff like roasted chestnuts and curry puffs. Hardly high gross margin items.
JB Jeyaratnam once upon a time cut a familiar and nostalgic sight selling his "Hammer" newsletter at Holland Village street corners and similar places of high pedestrian traffic. He didn't have to ask any civil servant for permission. Like the Nike logo, he went ahead and "just do it".