GUYANA: Georgetown: City vending – One of the most pressing issues – Commentary

City Hall – Georgetown

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The announcement last Thursday (February 18, 2021), that the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) was moving to implement a policy to regularise vending in Georgetown should have come as no surprise to anyone.

In fact, if anything, some might have questioned what took Mayor Ubraj Narine so long. One of the just four mayors Georgetown has had over the past three-plus decades, it was almost a given. He had to step up to address what is one of the city’s most pressing issues: vending.

Like drainage and garbage collection, vending has proven so far to be insurmountable. No mayor has been able to get a handle on vendors in the city, much less to regularise them or their operations. The softly, softly approach has not worked, nor has the big stick. The vendor issue has proven to be the equivalent of civic quicksand and to date mayors have found themselves either stuck or floundering or both.

Back in 1992, Compton Young, who was then Mayor of Georgetown had professed that he was “very unhappy” with pavement vending and had threatened to do “something very dramatic” about it. It should be noted here that though there were many pavement vendors in 1992, the number could be considered small when compared with what we see around the city today. Mr Young’s plan for getting the vendors off the city’s pavements involved building a two-storey shopping mall on Bourda Green that would have 1,600 booths. He had told reporters in January 1992 that he had invited two reputable local businesses to be involved in the mall project. Well, there was nothing dramatic about that and it also never came to fruition.

In 1994, A Good and Green Guyana won the most votes at the local government elections and its leader and founder Mr Hamilton Green took over the running of the city. Mr Green remained the chief citizen of Georgetown for the next 22 years, during which time he blew hot and cold with the vendors amidst much wrangling with the central government.

There was, of course, a history of bitter politics between Mr Green and the PPP/C, owing to his former position in the hierarchy of the PNC and stints as vice-president and prime minister of Guyana. It did not help that Mr Green’s tenure as mayor spanned several PPP/C administrations: Mr Cheddi Jagan (1992-1997), Mr Sam Hinds (1997), Mrs Janet Jagan (1997-1999), Mr Bharrat Jagdeo (1999-2011), and Mr Donald Ramotar (2011-2015). Sadly, for Georgetown, none of these administrations had or wanted a good relationship with its longest serving mayor. It would not be incorrect to say that they all so badly wanted him to fail, they were prepared to let the city go down with him. There was some amount of success in that direction.

Mrs Patricia Chase-Green succeeded Mr Hamilton Green as mayor in 2016 when local government elections were finally held again. She was previously a member of the M&CC under Mr Green’s mayorship, as well as his deputy and had once told him at a statutory meeting that by going to extra mile to assist vendors he was ending up “looking incompetent”. At that same meeting in 2011, she had berated her fellow councillors around the horseshoe table, accusing them of “playing too much politics” with the vendor issue. She remonstrated that they were all guilty of turning a blind eye to city vending and allowing it to “become a monster”. She had lamented too that the members of the City Constabulary were ignoring their mandate and worsening the problem.

Despite all this, however, Mrs Chase-Green was also unable to bring order to city vending when she took over as Georgetown’s chief citizen. She had begun by moving to register all vendors in Georgetown; from Agricola to Cummings Lodge, whether they were selling on the pavements, or the streets in front of schools and businesses. The idea was that once the registration was complete, no new vendors would be allowed to trade in the city. The problem was that the M&CC was going to have to rely on established vendors to turn in their new comrades, who in some cases were family members or friends. Promises were made by both sides, but before long the initiative had failed and things were back to square one. Mrs Chase-Green then turned her attention to the pursuit of the now-infamous and also failed parking meter saga for which she will be remembered.

Georgetown’s vendors do not fit into a single mould and perhaps therein lies the difficulty. There are day vendors and night vendors; those who have a fixed spot and those who walk about. The ones who sell prepared food items are different from those who sell raw provisions. Those who sell confectionary are in different category too, as well as those who hawk clothing or haberdashery. There are seasonal vendors who only sell kites at Easter, fireworks at Diwali or Christmas and vendors who only appear at Christmas time. Any regulation of this wide variety of sellers will require much study and a multi-pronged approach. Perhaps the first step would be the difficult task of enumerating them to find out just how many they are and what exactly they trade in.

Of course, the best way to have dealt with city vending would have been to regulate it when it first started. That ought to have been implemented after the first dozen or score of vendors appeared. If there were proper city planners from the beginning, areas for vending would have been demarcated, and no-vending zones policed with stringent enforcement to repel any who dared to encroach on them. However, that is all moot and the problem today, as it has been for decades, remains not just realising a semblance of order but maintaining it.

If he is to have better luck with this issue than his predecessors, Mayor Narine will need a solid plan, time and a lot of prayer.

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Comments

  • kamtanblog  On 02/26/2021 at 3:39 am

    Absolutely hilarious
    “A lot of prayer” !
    God “if there is one” only help those who help themselves. What about the bad and the ugly?

    One rule for them other for us brigade !

    Simple Simon suggest
    Move GT inland upriver nearer CJ int airport
    on higher ground. Invite Brazillia town planners for consultation ….learning from the mistakes of Brazillia city in middle of nowhere (Amazonia)
    A city needs a population of 1m ….
    create the city and people will move.

    Not rocket science !

    Promise not to stay GT on my next trip but head southeast from airport.

    Kamtan uk-ex-EU
    International traveller

  • Dennis Albert  On 02/28/2021 at 3:46 pm

    Remember when the Lamaha canal squatters along Camp Street to the Atlantic ocean were being silently exterminated in the night by para-military forces, under the guise of safety concerns?

    But then a few months later, construction for mega high rises by Chinese nationals started appearing?

    The rich get richer while the poor suffer. There are only removing street vendors to build more twelve to fifteen story high rises for the Americans and white people.

    • kamtanblog  On 02/28/2021 at 5:41 pm

      My friend …it’s not only for Americans and white people !?
      It’s for “rich” and “upper classes” as only
      they can afford such luxury.
      The masses (majority) will have to make do with
      their “tents” “tarpaulin” shelters.
      What is the Lord Mayor doing about housing
      the homeless squatters in the city ?
      Where are the social/communal housing ?
      Where are the community housing initiatives ?
      Now dat Guyana gat black gold monies there
      is no excuse for doing nothing about housing the poor and destitute homeless.
      Vote dem out ! Join in peaceful protests !
      With prior permission of the poo poo !

      Call it the “homeless” protest !

      Fear not want not !
      Nothing is achieved without a struggle.

      Kamtan uk-ex-EU

      • Dennis Albert  On 02/28/2021 at 6:06 pm

        I agree. The inequality is class-based, but if I mention who owns the 15 storey Pegasus suites and the upcoming 12 to 26 storey high Raddison/CIMGRO condos, mega high rise Giftland and Massy supermarkets, the PPP supporters will complain on me.

  • Dennis Albert  On 02/28/2021 at 8:36 pm

    Is this the future of GT? Economic discrimination?

    Racist Permit Patty targeting a young African-American boy? Why don’t the racist white woman do a permit patty on the mass shooters who does shoot up the places of worship like that New Zealand white nationalist?

    • Dennis Albert  On 02/28/2021 at 8:53 pm

      Is this the future for Guyanese?

      Are the enemies the racist people up in America, Canada and the EU?

      • kamtanblog  On 03/01/2021 at 12:05 am

        My friend
        “Abuse” comes in all colours/sizes/shapes.
        A lot triggered by willful arrogance/ignorance.
        Intent !
        Where are the anti social laws to
        address the issues. In UK you call a
        coloured person using N word you
        will be prosecuted and jailed if found guilty. No ifs or buts ! Anti social behaviour should not be encouraged/tolerated. The ex CIC USA
        Xenophobic behaviour/attitude will remain a USA stigmata for many more years unless new anti-social laws are signed/enforced by new kid on block.
        Not CIC but Inciter in chief !
        Guyana’s lawmakers El presidente and his government must introduce “anti social” laws to address these issues
        ASAP. Yesterday !
        Willful ignorance is a pandemic
        Address these and control it’s contagnation/spreading.

        In uk today it is an offence to play loud music after certain times in evening …illegal. Poo poo will caution first then
        charge prosecute if not adhered to !

        Where are the “anti social” laws in Guyana to protect the public ?

        My two cents

        Kamtan

      • Dennis Albert  On 03/01/2021 at 6:40 am

        Read this story from Glenn Lall newspaper. No rights for “Spanish woman”:

        https://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2021/03/01/spanish-woman-raped-sodomised-battered-as-neighbour-rushed-to-get-help/

        This is what the police act upon, harassing street vendors:

        Oil money done create inequality and corruption. Ferrari and Lambo galore!

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