The Peeper decided last Sunday to pay a visit to the other section of the Georgetown Seawall – the section near to the roundabout which links the Rupert Craig Highway. The situation there was distressing.
The area just behind the “earth station” not far from the roundabout is overcrowded with vendors. The Peeper counted no less than fifty “cool-down carts” most of which were lined up next to each other on the northern side of the Seawall Road.
All of these cool-down carts – which are really thrown-away old refrigerators – were lined on the street, narrowing it further. There were numerous vendors’ stands and a few more cool-down carts on the southern parapet, including the section which is known as Hotel California, a favourite haunt for lovers.
Lovers have little privacy now on that section of the seawall. They have to compete with the numerous vendors who have set up shop at that location.
Not only was the number of cool-down carts astonishing, but even more amazing was that all of them were selling almost the same beverages. How can more than fifty persons sell the same items on a narrow stretch of about 100 metres?
The situation was quite chaotic. At some places, it was next to impossible for two vehicles travelling in opposite directions to get by each other. The police ought to make that section a one-way road.
The massive number of cool-down carts, the greatest concentration of such carts anywhere in the country, really says what is taking place in the economy. It says that the small man is not doing well at all. He is punishing. The economic policies which are being pursued are benefitting the rich and middle classes and not the poorer classes.
Those who wish to bury their heads in the sand are free to do so, but should not attempt to lecture anyone who has visited the seawall in recent times and seen the massive influx of cool-down carts each competing with the other for the sale of the same products.
The situation there is symptomatic of what is taking place in the economy. People are hurting. They do not know where to turn to earn a living, and so they are trying their hand at vending, even if it means that they have to sell the same thing that so many others are selling.
Guyanese have always been ingenious. The very emergence of cool-down carts from around the mid-1980s came after round upon round of retrenchment of state employees who could not find alternative jobs after they were dismissed.
These persons and others used their brains and turned unused refrigerators into money-spinners. It was then an amazing piece of ingenuity. Things were rock hard then. Import restrictions were in place. There were not many persons throwing away refrigerators.
That has changed with economic liberalization. There are lots of derelict refrigerators around and the vendors are making use of them. Except it’s just too many old fridges and too many vendors. Too many sellers peddling the same products means that everyone suffers, because sales are never going to be enough to help these persons make ends meet.
It is doubtful whether any of these cool-down operators with their derelict refrigerators are making much money. Some of them should have tried selling ice-cream. The Peeper raised this with one of them, but he said that the capital costs would be just as high and once the ice cream melts, it is hard to resell it the next day.
People are hurting. As you drive around many residential areas, you see an increase in vending. People are setting up little stands on their bridges and selling sweets and bread and snack foods – anything to try to make ends meet. Others are erecting tents and selling things which they would have received in barrels sent by their overseas relatives.
Dog food is big business. There is a little stretch on the East Coast Public Road between Sparendaam and Better Hope. People are risking their lives on that busy stretch trying to peddle dog food. You know a country is in serious crisis when so many people are being forced to sell cooked dog food for a living.
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