Home Letters City Hall seems unaware street vendors are integral to urban economies
Witnessing the condescending manner in which Georgetown’s Town Clerk Royston King spoke to vendors at a meeting he held recently under a tent in the forecourt of City Hall, speaks volumes of the contempt and disregard the administration of the city has for these small-businesspersons.
It wasn’t just King’s s tone of voice, but what he said and how he said it. The language he used, the way he constructed sentences, the sound of his words and personality, the way he gesticulated, suggested that he thought the vendors were not as clever or important as he was.
King spoke as though he was some imperial overlord addressing his subjects, all of whom had no choice but to accept his tough talk, his twisted logic, and his new-found vision for Georgetown, even though he worked at the municipality for over30 years.
Even though he was using a microphone, under a tent in a relatively cramped area, King shouted at his audience until he was hoarse. It was not a dialogue but rather a belligerent monologue, in which King was lecturing and scolding these persons, like they were some wayward children. Listening to him, one got the impression that the municipality was faultless and blameless in the vending situation. He paid no heed to vending as a socio-economic phenomenon. He seemed unaware that street vendors are an integral part of urban economies around the world, offering easy access to a wide range of goods and services in public spaces. He was only preoccupied with rounding up over 300 vendors and squeezing them into a space that could hardly accommodate 100 persons.
King in his presentation sought to cast blame on the previous central government for the vending situation which is both dishonest and disingenuous.
It is no secret that many businessmen encouraged the vendors for reasons best known to themselves. But more importantly and King is old enough to know, it was Hamilton Green the former Mayor who encouraged street vendors to encroach on the pavements of store owners. This was done since n the 1980s.
In fact he went further than that, encouraging people to squat on lands that did not belong to them such as the case aback of the Botanic Gardens, a site owned by continental agencies, designated for the construction of a hotel.
Does King realise that most street vendors provide the main source of income for their households, bringing food to their families and paying school fees for their children? These informal workers have strong linkages to the formal economy. Most of them source the goods they sell from formal enterprises in Georgetown?
Street vendors create jobs, not only for themselves but for porters, transport operators, storage providers, and others. Street vending has added vibrancy to urban life in our capital and can be considered a cornerstone of our historical and cultural heritage.