Ten market tarmacs which cost over $3 billion to develop are grossly underutilised—where they are used at all—and citizens are of the view that government has carelessly spent taxpayers’ money on these white elephants.
The ten tarmacs in Regions Two, Three, Four and Five were handed over to the respective Neighbourhood Democratic Councils by the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development during the course of the year.
A visit by this newspaper to several tarmacs on the East Bank and East Coast Demerara revealed that they are not being used.
At the $24.5 million Diamond/Grove tarmac several boys were seen playing a game of cricket, while others were playing football. A resident who has been living in the area for the past nine years said vendors prefer to use the roadside outside Demerara Distillers Limited, or simply go to Georgetown to sell their produce. “It is more convenient for people to use the roadside outside there because nobody does want come in here to buy anything,” he said. The resident added that the tarmac is only used for sporting activities. He said that since the tarmac was built, it has never been used by residents other than as a sporting facility.
At Buxton, residents shared the same views. Errol Sam, who has been living in Buxton all his life, said that the government needed to analyse what was going on in the community before building an “unwanted” tarmac. Sam said that several years ago, the community had a good market underneath the building that houses the village council. He said that was when the village used to produce a lot, but now the people in Buxton have nothing to vend, so the government wasted money to build something that will never be fully utilised. Another resident said the tarmac was a good thing because persons in the community can park their cars there and the men in the community can play football on Sundays.
Vendors in Plaisance criticised the size of the allocated plots on their market tarmac, saying that they were too small for them to vend on. “These small things is for goat and dog, this is not for people.
What they expect people to do with them tiny thing?” one resident said. However, residents are pleased that young people have somewhere to play.
“At least them youth man get a place to kick ball when the day come. Is best they de spend all of them millions on a community ground instead of on a tarmac that people don’t vend on,” another resident said. She added that Sundays are the days when the market area is bustling.
The $20 million Haslington market tarmac is also currently being used as a recreational ground for the youths in the area, and several residents said that it will always be used as such, since the Golden Grove market is better for them to sell their produce. “It makes absolutely no sense to build a tarmac here when Golden Grove is right next door and everyone goes there for market on Sunday,” a resident in the area said.
Many vendors also raised the issue of security at the various tarmacs. They said they were told that the different NDCs will fence the area and provide an area to secure their stalls. On the issue of vehicle parking, the ministry will work with the NDC to seek space nearby.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Local Government had said that it would aggressively pursue the relocation of vendors to market tarmacs and will resort to the police to help if necessary. The ministry had also said that June 30 is the deadline for the Grove/Diamond vendors to begin utilising the market tarmac built at a cost of $24.5 million.