Eight years ago, a business in Robb Street had some of its stock seized for reportedly encumbering the pavements. The seizure was allegedly made by the local municipality and it upset the owners of the business who felt that they were being unfairly treated.
Many store owners in Guyana have been forced to extend this display out onto the pavements. This is because unless they occupy the space outside of their stories, these spots are going to be invaded by vendors who pay no taxes, have no overheads and are able to get away with squatting in front of legitimate businesses.
As such, many store owners have been forced to take action so as to prevent vendors from occupying the space in front of their stores.
If the City Council is therefore serious about continuing to remove encumbrances on the pavement, it first needs to deal with the problem of pavement vending.
All illegal vending should be stopped and the pavements should be kept clear of all vendors. But the Council will find it very hard, for reasons it knows best, to keep the pavement clear.
In fact, despite a few years of restoring Regent Street to sanity by removing the tent cities that had mushroomed, there was a return to pavement vending and also new forms of vending are being tacitly allowed right under the noses of City Hall.
The former PPPC government had tried to assist in dealing with this problem by the compulsory acquisition of a large plot of valuable real estate to relocate pavement vendors. There is now a beautiful and orderly vendors’ mall on Water Street. But just how many of those who run the stalls there were the original pavement vendors? How many of the original vendors are still there?
This newspaper should do a survey. Find out the names of those originally identified for plots in the vendors’ mall and ascertain who are the present occupiers of those stalls. It would be an interesting piece of research.
Never before has any government spent the money that Central Government spent on vendors. And still the problem with pavement vending persists.
In fact, those vendors who occupy that new vendors’ mall, as well as the old Vendors’ Arcade are being affected by the expansion of new pavement vending on Water Street itself. So instead of assisting those vending in the arcades and malls established specifically for original pavement vendors, these persons on whom hundreds of millions of dollars has been spent are being shortchanged by the fact that pavement vending is expanding in many parts of the city, including in near proximity to the arcades and malls.
The City Council by now ought to have recognised that some of these persons who are occupying huge stalls on the pavements on Water Street are not individuals without means. Many of them have stocks to the tune of millions of dollars. There are persons selling out of million dollar vehicles alongside the side of the road. So it is no longer just a problem of poor persons who need to make a living.
If the City Council wants to address encumbrances, it has to address this comprehensively. It has to deal with all those who encumber the pavements, reserves and parapets. It cannot simply move along against the business people who are being disadvantaged because of the practice of pavement vending.
Given, however, what has become of the city of Georgetown; given the confusion and disorder that exists over vending, and the amount of money that has been already spent by the government on addressing this problem and the length of time that this problem has been existing, it is highly unlikely that there is going to be any meaningful change to what is taking place so long.
Hopefully, areas are going to be set aside in the newly created towns specifically for established commercial activity and these eyesores of ramshackle stalls are going to be a thing of the past. Hopefully, zoning and proper management will exist and will allow for new towns to emerge.
This will be the end of Georgetown and justifiably so, because right now, it is a disgrace as a capital city.
You can hardly walk freely on the pavements these days, and instead of keeping these clear of illegal pavement vending, City Hall is going after existing businesses who are merely trying to secure themselves against unfair competition.
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