Minister of Housing and Water Irfaan Ali gave Mahdia arcade vendors six weeks to regularise their businesses, in accordance with the specified construction agreement, at a meeting in the Regional Democratic Council office on Monday.
Ali travelled to the Region Eight community to engage stakeholders on housing, water and occupancy concerns at the arcade that had been submitted to the regional administration and forwarded to the central ministry. During the exchange, he reminded the vendors that they would have gone through a series of meetings and committed to adhering to the stipulated construction guidelines in order to preserve the structure of the arcade, a Government Information Agency (GINA) press release said.
Part of the central ministry agreement entailed that the 28 stalls be built to a specified size and a number of drains, a walkway and public washroom facilities had also been built to enhance the facility. Since that time several vendors have flouted the guidelines and have resorted to living and selling at the location.
“We have to implement the rules…we have to clear the area…we have to remove the squatters,” he said, adding that the ministry only catered for the 28 vendors that had been displaced by the fire. Regarding additional vendors, he said the ministry would have to discuss that option but for now “I am not asking for any change, all I am asking is for you to resort to the original agreement.”
Ali reminded them that adhering to the agreement was the only means of preventing a return to the conditions that exposed the entire community to the risk and danger, as what obtained in the July 2010 fire. The fire destroyed a large section of the mining community, and though it was located in the market area, at the time several persons had been living and selling at there, resulting in significant losses. In December, the ministry hosted a one stop shop to allot house lots to persons who were left homeless after the fire.
According to REO Ronald Harsawack the regional administration would have written to the vendors on several occasions asking squatters to relocate. He noted that all the parties were given adequate notice and the region will remove the illegal structures if the vendors have not done so by the stipulated time.
At the meeting, several vendors had indicated that they are now financially able to make more elevated stalls; however, the minister indicated that the regional administration and RDC would together be the ones to determine if this could happen. They were also told that the ministry recognises the need for more vending facilities to support the growing community and it would consider expanding the arcade using both government resources and sums collected from vendors.
Regarding the Mahdia Housing Scheme and the development of house lots, Ali said that the ministry will soon have the final allocation of the lots available and the power network will be installed in the area. The water distribution network has already been put in place and only awaits connection to the main. Allottees were advised to start building while the ministry locates other suitable areas to cater for another 100 house lots.
According to GINA, Ali was supported by a team including Permanent Secretary Emile McGarrel, Acting CEO at the Guyana Water Inc Nigel Niles and Regional Chairman Mark Crawford.