Banks DIH Ltd, Guyana’s leading beverage manufacturer and a fixture among vendors on the Mash Day route has confirmed that this year’s high vending prices has compelled it to change the method of its operations.
Rather than place its own vending booths at strategic points along the route where crowds will flock to witness the float parade on Mash Day, Banks will be intensifying its sales efforts through other vendors who purchase and resell its beverages.
A source at the company confirmed that Banks, having been made aware of the increased vending rates, had taken a decision that it did not make good business sense. “It really was a matter of changing our model,” the source said.
Earlier this week Deputy Mayor Patricia Chase-Green had told the Stabroek Business that Banks was one of several companies that appeared to have frowned on the hike in vending rates put in place by Town Clerk Carol Sooba. She said the customary scores of smaller vendors who seize their ‘one off’ windfalls from the thousands of revelers that take to the streets may also be less evident this year.
Chase-Green made no secret of the fact that the fault for what might be the failure of small and micro businesses taking full commercial advantage of Mash this year would lie with the approach of gouging that Sooba has applied to the fixing of prices for trading on the Mash route.
It transpires, according to the Deputy Mayor, that the controversial Town Clerk has simply put before the Council a take-it-or-leave-it decision that trading rates on Mash Day will be considerably hiked and that big businesses as much as smaller ones will feel the heat.
Already, the Town Clerk’s hiking of the costs of trading spaces has priced the country’s biggest beverage manufacturer out of the market. Barring any last minute change of its decision or change in what the Deputy Mayor sees as a draconian and high-handed decision on the part of the Town Clerk, Banks DIH Ltd, unthinkably, may not set up its usually popular ‘cool down’ tents on the road this year. Chase-Green said that if the Town Clerk has her way, Banks would have had to pay upwards of $800,000 to operate its seven stalls on the Merriman Mall and elsewhere on the route on Mash Day.
Smaller vendors offering snack foods and bottled drinks will, the Deputy Mayor estimates, have to pay as much as $10,000, or even $15,000 for the spots on which they will trade on Mash Day.
The Deputy Mayor is unequivocal in her view that the move is likely to be seen by the vending community as an attempt to commercialise Mash in a manner that vulgarises the spirit of the event. “Which regular vendor is going to make the kind of money to put something in their pockets and still pay those rates,” Chase-Green asked rhetorically.
Up until now both the private sector and the Ministry of Culture have remained on the sidelines of what is seen as an extension of the ongoing feud between the council and the municipal civil service, headed by the Town Clerk. But the Deputy Mayor said her concern has to do with the fact that as Mash Day draws closer and the reality of the considerable hike in trading rates sinks in, it could give rise to considerable resentment. Indeed, she said, occurrences like the Town Clerk’s unilateral hike in trading rates could give rise to fresh protestations about ‘killing off Mash.’
The Deputy Mayor insisted that the imposition of what are loosely described as ‘commercial rates’ for trading spaces on Mash Day is, in effect, a bastardisation of the principle that informed the charging of fees in the first place. She said the whole idea behind trading charges had to do with the need to meet the costs associated with the post-Mash cleanup.
It is, of course, no secret that City Hall has long been hard-pressed to generate sufficient revenue to effectively discharge its obligations to the city though Chase-Green insisted that the financial challenges facing the municipality cannot be used as an excuse for seeking to make a business venture out of charging fees for vending on Mash Day. That, she said, is hardly consistent with “the spirit” of the celebrations. Still, she said, with the Town Clerk having told the council that the new rates were neither for debate nor discussion but were simply being tendered as a matter of information, there is a very real possibility that trading on the Mash route on February 23 may prove to be quite a costly exercise.