Tula Persaud Udit, owner of Hari Bol Shopping Plaza, NA: `So far business is not what was expected for this season and there are many factors that contribute to it. First of all money is not circulating and there is no spending power. There are also a lot of street vendors and bottom-house stores. A lot of businesses have also been opened all over the place, especially at Rosignol, Bath Settlement and Bush Lot on West Berbice. And now, because of the bridge our customers from across the river don’t really come over to shop. They are finding it too expensive to cross. Another factor is that people have indebted themselves at various credit facilities like Courts and Singers. The banks are also giving easy loans to purchase cars. The little money that they work for is used up to pay installments monthly. The economic crisis abroad is also a contributory factor because many people depended on relatives to send money to shop for the holidays. We also find that the Indians and the Chinese and even the Brazilians come here and sell very cheap.
Business is changing; at Christmastime we would normally do good business but this year it is very slow. We do not get to open late for shopping because of the crime situation. As soon as the place gets dark we have to close up.’
Feroze Jafarally, barber: `The bridge is a welcoming reality but it has isolated New Amsterdam to some extent and it has caused businesses to decline. There is no scoop for business in the town anymore; it is finished. People from the Corentyne would prefer to go to Georgetown to do shopping. It is also a burden for West Berbice residents to wait a long time on minibuses to full to come over. They also have to pay a high price to cross – $800 return when they only used to pay $120 with the boat. Business is also slow because the sugar workers are not getting their back-pay. They have no money to spend so there would be no Christmas for them. I do not expect business to pick up. There are also no job opportunities in New Amsterdam – it has nothing offer. Region Six on a whole is dead where jobs are concerned. If you know someone in higher authority then you may get a good job. My daughter gained 11 subjects at the CSEC exams and she cannot get a job. She made several applications and is still waiting…’
Babita, vendor, NA: `Christmas shopping has not picked up and I don’t believe it is because of the bridge. I went to Georgetown and I noticed that it is the same way. People would just come and watch and ask prices and go. They are not getting the money so how they would buy? I find the bridge very convenient. I get to do my business in Georgetown and get back early without a hassle. On the other hand, our customers find it the same way and they too prefer to go to Georgetown. But then again, who could you please? Generally less people come from West Berbice so there is not much spending power in NA.’
Vedika Persaud, florist: `I learnt to make flowers since I was nine years old. During those days we used to make flowers with plastic bags then we started with crepe paper. Now I am making arrangements with silk flowers. I enjoy doing it but this year the sale is really slow and I think that is because there are not enough jobs. I think the rain has also caused the cane crop to slow up so the people don’t have money to spend. Flowers are luxury so this is the last thing they would buy. I also think the bridge is affecting people to come to NA. They used to pay $60 to cross with the ferry [one side] and now they have to pay $300 just to cross. I am hoping that business would pick up. Anyhow, when the day is up I still make something; it is better than staying at home.’
Danny Sankar, vendor: `To me business has decreased about 60% since the bridge. It is already December 16 [then] and you could count the people who do shopping in NA. Business was never as slow as this year. At this time of the year you hardly had place to walk. The few shoppers around just come out to buy basic items. Throughout the night it is the same. Business is not fluctuating but decreasing all the time. As a day-to-day businessman I could tell you that. The town lacks security and street lights and people need more protection because they are scared to shop. People are not coming out later than 7 pm to shop so we have to pack up and go home. In the past years we could have sold up to 9 pm. Besides, people are finding it easier and cheaper to go to Georgetown. They do their Christmas and school shopping there now.
Although NA is closer to West Berbice residents do not come over as they used to with the ferry.’
Ahmad Sattaur, NA market vendor: `I find that business is dead this year comparing to last year. I don’t know if it would pick up later. People need the items but they do not have money to spend. The delay in the sugar workers’ back-pay has affected business. If they had gotten their money business would have been a little better. Since the bridge, people prefer to go to Georgetown; I have seen some of my customers shopping there.’
Wattie Singh, NA market vendor: `Business is very slow this year. It is not like the rest of the Christmas. People have to get more money to spend. The salary is very small and prices have gone up in the supermarkets and elsewhere. As a Christian, we have to enjoy Christmas in the church but I have never seen a Christmas like this. I plan to enjoy it at home too. Perhaps we would not get everything but it is how we want to make it. I would make it good. The working class of people must get the right amount of pay so they can cover all their expenses and still have extra money to save for the holidays.’
Jacqueline Profitt, NA market vendor: `I have been selling in the market for the past 10 years and I find this year very rough. For this season business is not as it should be because everybody is actually on the road selling. People are not really coming in the market to buy as before. But I still content with the little I am selling through God’s grace. In the past years I used to go to Georgetown four times per week to do shopping and now I am just going once per week. I am glad if they could move the people off the road next year and bring them back in the market – it has space for everybody. At least the bridge is working nice for me. Before the bridge more people used to come over and we did good business but the business scale has dropped.’
Ronald Gobin, NA market vendor: `The bridge is a total convenience generally. It has helped to solve the entire problem for the ambulance during emergency. I do not think the bridge has affected business in any way. To me shopping is normal. There is a total decline in the economy as a whole so you cannot expect business to be better than this. I am satisfied with the sale I am getting because I am aware of the world crisis. In terms of sugar, if they had paid the workers early Christmas would have been brighter in a sense.’
Chandat Ragbeer, NA market vendor: `I live at Cotton Tree and the way the Route 56 zone system was set up, the minibuses do not drop you to your spot anymore. I have to join a bus at the New Amsterdam stelling with my load when I cross. Then we end up paying a lot of extra money. The drivers should be allowed to drop off the vendors at the market at least up to 9 am. The travelling is very frustrating. In the afternoons after work the buses take you to the stelling and you have to take another bus from there and go home. They said the police would lock them up if they stop. I think the government should look into it. I cannot understand the new system they put in place but I know they can do better. First four schoolchildren used to occupy one seat in the bus. Now only three are allowed and the children have to pay the full fare. Many parents cannot afford this.’
Asha Dasrat, vendor at Rosignol market: `I am selling mostly toys and Christmas decorations but I find that sales are very slow. So far only the items that cost around $100 would go fast. Persons tell me that they do not have money to shop. They still buy the cheap items because their children would look forward for something. But what can I do? I understand the situation and I am still pleased with whatever little I make and I thank God for it. It is still better than nothing because I would be at home doing nothing. Since the bridge many businesses open around Rosignol so people can go anywhere and pick up something.’
Rajin Deodat, grocery vendor at Rosignol market: `I find that sales are a bit slow. I still think more people would come out and shop closer to the holidays though. It could be that they are still waiting on their salary. I assist my aunt to sell for a few years now and to me business used to be bright around this time of the year. A lot of businesses open in this area because nobody really goes over to New Amsterdam so much after the bridge built. We have a variety of items so what people don’t get the other places they would come here for it. We still have our regular customers who would come and shop.’