The vendors have City Hall’s number. Every time City Hall moves against the vendors, they are reminded that they, the vendors, voted for the coalition, and that the next time elections come around they can withdraw that vote.
It is called political blackmail. It is practiced by supporters on both sides of the political fence. It is a well-honed and hackneyed argument. It states that if you do something that I do not like, I will not vote for you the next time.
The political leaders on both sides of the political divide know this tactic all too well. They may pretend to take it seriously. Those using the tactic may believe that they have the politicians by a string, but they are only deluding themselves.
The politicians know that come elections, ethnic voting tends to dominate. All they have to do is to create enough fear as to what will happen if the other side wins and the vast majority of their supporters forget about the political blackmail. They run back home. This is how it has always been in Guyana.
City Hall is just flexing with those vendors on the Merriman Mall who were operating makeshift beauty parlours and barber shops. City Hall invested hundreds of millions of dollars in cleaning up that Mall and in developing sections of it. City Hall is not going to allow any vendor to have a permanent occupation there and allow that section to be in contrast to the other sections on which developmental works took place.
City Hall also has constituents to satisfy; the constituents who live on both of the roads running alongside that strip which is known as Merriman Mall. The property owners on those streets are worried that the ugly-looking stalls on the Mall will cause their property values to decrease. No one likes the value of their property to decline because of vending and squatting. As such, City Hall will be under pressure to take some action to remove the unsightly tents which have been erected.
The vendors also have to bear in mind that the arrangement they have in place with City Hall to do business on Merriman Mall between Cummings and Light Streets, is a temporary one. They were removed from the Stabroek Area and relocated to where they are now, but this is only a temporary arrangement. They may have gotten a reprieve, but eventually they will have to move.
The time has come to settle the vendors’ problem. And there is only one way to settle it. The law must be enforced. At the same time, arrangements must be put in place to move businesses outside of the City so that new commercial areas can be developed.
Vendors should be encouraged to become store and show owners. They should be regularized.
City Hall apparently has plans to place them under a roof. But that is not going to work, because most of them do not want to go under any roof. They want to go and squat in front of legitimate businesses. They want to seize prime business space without paying for that space.
The City for too long has encouraged the practice of vending, because it was seen as a means of creating economic space for vendors. But that plan has backfired, and the development of the City is now being stymied by having a disorganized and disordered city.
Finding a place for vending will not work. The vendors do not want any and every place. They want prime locations and they want to be out in the open.
The vending problem is causing headaches for City Hall. It is not going to be fixed by flexing with vendors. That is what they want. This is playing right into their hands. No wonder they feel that City Hall will back down every time they threaten to withhold their vote.
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