I support the Georgetown City Council’s tough decision to stop street vendors from blocking pavements, parapets and the entrances to homes and businesses in Alexander Street and anywhere else.
According to media reports, the Council has dismantled and removed more than 30 pallets and larger structures that were erected illegally by street vendors. This is a good move. These unsightly structures were built there with no regard for the public’s right to move freely on the streets and sidewalks and no consideration of people’s right to unobstructed access to homes and businesses. They also impede proper flow of traffic and citizens have to walk on the streets.
Town Clerk Royston King explained that retailers and wholesalers want to extend market and marketing activities on Alexander Street all the way to South Road and Croal Street, but the illegal street vendors were blocking entrances, impeding the flow of traffic. They were also contributing to general untidiness and poor hygiene in a central business district.
I also support the City Council’s plans to expand this exercise and clear other streets in an effort to keep the city tidy and ensure that traffic flows smoothly. This is going to be unpopular among affected street vendors, but this is absolutely necessary to upgrade and modernize the capital city as the nation prepares for the economic stimulus from oil production.
Being Town Clerk is not easy. This officer has to activate and enforce hard and sometimes unpopular decisions by Georgetown’s Mayor and City Councillors. When the decisions are unpopular, this officer has to face the public and defend these decisions amidst outcries and protests.
It is hard to please everyone. I understand the reason why hucksters are vending on the streets at all hours of the day and night. Like everyone else, they want to earn a living and have a right to do so. But law and order must be maintained at all times; they cannot earn a living by trampling on the rights of others and violating statutes and standards of selling in the city.
While we empathise with street vendors’ need to earn their daily bread, we cannot allow them to create chaos in the city and prevent pedestrians from walking comfortably on the road or let them continue to hamper the flow of traffic because pedestrians are forced off of the pavement or because vendors are in awkward positions on the roadways.
Most of all, our capital city must be our showpiece to the world of the values we stand for as a nation. That is why we cannot sit idly while growing numbers of unregulated street vendors make Georgetown look a shantytown. We have to take effective action to protect and preserve the aesthetics of our city.
People forget that Guyana is preparing for a new era of development and growth with a surge in the number of foreign visitors, not only for tourism but investors and their staff, to the tune of hundreds and thousands, for long term stay. If they have a good impression of the city, word will spread and this will translate into more business and more money. Therefore, I will support any positive steps by the Town Hall to ensure that Georgetown is picturesque and clean and does not become a shantytown.
Guyana is poised for expansion and we have to use our grey matter to imagine what that would be like.
It will be complete chaos if everyone in the country who wants to vend can just erect a stall to vend any item that they wish without care or concern for property owners, store operators, legal vendors and the aesthetics of the city.
I might come in for much abuse but I am prepared for it because sometimes we have to stand for principle.
Guyana is on the go. Great things are going to happen and if we do not start working immediately, the hundreds of thousands who will be coming to live, work, invest and produce will have a serious problem adjusting to the lawlessness that pertains.
Citizens of Georgetown, citizens of Guyana, let us work with the authorities for a healthier, more beautiful Guyana.
Roshan Khan Snr.