September 26, 2016

Vendors dissatisfied with new Merriman Mall rules, conditions

By Merissa Wilson

Earlier this week, the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) dropped the bombshell that the Council will be adding a whooping


The rehabilitated structure of the Merriman Mall

$1200 to the rental fees for vendors using the Merriman Mall.
This decision came in light of the recently rehabilitated Mall which had been upgraded in keeping with Guyana’s cleanup campaign.
However, apart from the vexed issue of the rental fees, vendors have voiced their dissatisfaction with the structure itself, as well as the curfew imposed.
It would seem that this new structure was constructed with the attempt to reforming the conditions under which persons were vending, but this has somehow conflicted with that intent.
On Saturday, Guyana Times paid a visit to the rehabilitated site where vendors vented their anger at the inconsideration of the M&CC towards their plight.
Though the structure seemed intact with the vision of the M&CC, the vendors have opposing views to new hardships they face as a result of the actions.
Grateful for the upgrade, the vendors however believe that there is a substantial amount of issues that need to be additionally addressed.

Before being relocated to the Cummings Street vending area earlier in January, the vendors had been consistent in paying their usual $300 per day to use the grounds for plying their trade.
However, as it has been reported, this $1200 addition to that fee poses an immense difficulty for the vendors who told this publication that the money they acquire from vending barely sustains them and their family.
Being their only source of livelihood, the vendors are calling for the relevant authorities to examine their plight and rescind the decision to have such a hefty cost attached to rentals.

One of the vendors who spoke with this newspaper, Melissa Roberts, informed that this is the only trade she has known for the last 35 years. She appealed for the price to be reduced to cater for those who are less financially stable.
The woman said the structure lacks basic amenities like electricity, washroom facilities and water supply, thus making it an unfair bargain on behalf of the vendors.
Additionally, given the case where the vendors request electricity, they are required to pay an extra $500.
“I have children to send to school, groceries to buy, bills to pay monthly, transportation costs. The poor are suffering,” Roberts argued.
Roberts recalled when she once rented three stalls at the cost of $1000 for the days that she worked, but now has a smaller space costing at a higher price.
Amar Sugrim who had been vending for more than 15 years shared equal sentiments as Rogers, indicating that the increase is exaggerated given the plight of the persons whose occupation is vending.
Another vendor reported that given business has fluctuated since their return to the spot; a greater weight is placed on the vendors to pay the total daily fee of $1500.

As if $1500 rental fees were not enough to burden the vendors, they were recently given the mandate to follow precise hours for vending on the premises.
According to the declaration by the M&CC, the stalls at Merriman Mall would be open to vending on Wednesdays from 11:00h, Fridays from 13:00h and all day on Thursdays and Saturdays.
The vendors told Guyana Times that considering the increase, the M&CC should be a little more thoughtful and grant them extra time to earn the money for fees.
Given the hours, they said it is inadequate time, not only to earn money to cover the rental fee but also to garner enough money for their personal use.
They had proposed that if the M&CC is firm in keeping with the increased prices, they could at least prolong vending hours.

In addition, the vendors at the Mall are concerned about the poor order in which they were placed as opposed to their previous stall position.
Roberts reported that before the relocation, they had been told by the Town Clerk that they would be placed in their initial spots.
However, upon returning to the premises on Wednesday last, they were told that there was a new procedure in acquiring spots. The vendors were made to put their hands in bags, pulling numbers to which stall they would occupy.
The stalls, which have been built with high walls, has also been criticised by the vendors as they believe it does not fit the ideals of a market place, since the high walls prevent exposure of their goods to potential customers.
The vendors are therefore hoping that these inconveniences would be reviewed and addressed by the incoming City Council after the Local Government Elections results have been announced.

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