The message early coming out of City Hall, Port of Spain, under the Mayor Raymond Tim Kee administration, proclaims only good news for vendors. The story breaking at last week’s monthly statutory meeting of the City Corporation reported the present authorities’ heartfelt goodwill, if not also unconditional love, for vendors.
“This is some good news for our vendors,” said Alderman Asha Permanand. She was referring to a plan for “regularisation of vendors on a phased basis”. Port of Spain vendors, it seems, are to gain status officially conferred by the City.
In confirmation of a sense of belonging, and of the enjoyment of privilege, vendors will even look the part. “Our vendors,” said Alderman Permanand, “are going to be registered, and they will be easily identified.”
Vendors will be issued blue polo shirts, inscribed “City of Port of Spain Vendors”. Alderman Permanand promoted the coming of new-look vendors as “a positive step”, and urged councillors to spread the good word.
Not only vendors, but also people living, working and doing business in the capital will look expectantly at the implementation of this promised “regularisation”. As described, it sounds like an even more ambitious approach than that taken by former mayor Louis Lee Sing, who struggled to bring order to the Port of Spain pavements by stipulating days and hours for vending, and even demarcating spaces for the accommodation of stalls and their owners.
For long years, vendors have successfully laid claim to the kerbs and the sidewalks on some capital city streets. Some vendors gradually expanded into empty or burnt-out lots, and so established themselves as to gain permanent locations now recognised as New City Mall and The Drag Mall.
Only seldom have resolute steps been made to bring order and subject vending to regulation. Sellers of vegetables have successfully resisted official pressure to move to dedicated spaces in the much-underutilised Central Market.
Mayor Tim Kee is clearly proud of the new dispensation for vending on which his Corporation is about to embark. The specific content of the new arrangements is yet to be outlined, but the Mayor last week signalled: “There will be some changes, and we would not want vendors to be caught with their pants down, so to speak.”
Calling for “adequate advertising”, the Mayor is yet to make clear how the “regularisation” of vendors will affect pedestrian and road traffic, and the owners and operators of shops and other businesses, all of whom have had unhappy experiences from uncontrolled vending.
The new City Corporation will earn the gratitude of all stakeholders if it manages, for a welcome change, to achieve a win-win outcome for all concerned. Anything else, and last week’s good news out of City Hall will be for vendors only.