Does it matter anyway?

The seasonal vending that never fails to bring a period of chaos and confusion to the capital is here again. The earliest signs of the most serious congestion are located in the vicinity of the Stabroek Market. Two things are immediately obvious. First, the municipality has lost such control as it had of street vending in parts of downtown Georgetown and it does not appear that it has either the energy or the will to regain that control. Secondly, the earlier heavy-handed attempts by the government to clear areas in front of the Stabroek Market of vendors, who had more or less put down roots there over time, has gradually waned and the area once again has a look of congestion to it.

Perhaps the most significant observation, though, has to do with the fact that the policy of creating vendors’ arcades to rid the streets of vendors, or at least to lessen the numbers, has simply failed. The contracts between the municipality and the vendors have been broken both by the decision by some vendors to acquire stalls in the arcades, while retaining their positions on the streets and pavements and by the pockets of corruption that manifest themselves in conniving between some municipal constables and vendors that is buttressed by a regimen of kickbacks.

These days there seems to be little merit in commenting publicly on the various ways in which vending on the streets has reduced our capital. For one thing, other appalling urban transgressions including those that have to do with garbage, transgressions of the building code, vehicle parking discrepancies and the dangers posed by unauthorised adjustments to sections of pavement have been added to the problem of pavement vendors. Nor is anyone fooled any longer by the mouthings of government, municipal officials, businessmen and social commentators about the state of the city. The fact of the matter is that we have learnt to live with it. Creating an enhanced Georgetown may be an excellent talking point for public discourse but the truth is that it is not an issue that has generated any real sense of urgency.

Nor does it really matter who is blame anymore. Georgetown has become our collective shame, though we have long passed the point where we feel any embarrassment. The issue will be discussed in the context of its impact on tourism, whether or not much of the blame ought not to accrue to the commercial sector, whether we have not arrived at a juncture where the citizens should be compelled by law to take greater responsibility for the cleanliness of the capital or even whether the solution to the problem might not repose in hastening local government elections, though that, most assuredly, is not where the problem lies. When all is said and done, however, the simple truth that we continually evade is that the state of our city really does not matter sufficiently to us, to give rise to a collective and determined initiative to do something about it.


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