Revisiting the Stabroek dilemma

Guyana Chronicle
August 20, 1999

THE old market, standing at the riverside for more than a century, and perhaps the most famous landmark in Port Georgetown, is to enter the new millennium with a long-overdue facelift.

We understand that the Stabroek Market is to be closed for rehabilitation works.

And so some time in the year 2000, hopefully, the cast iron bell in the steeple will ring again, marking the passing hours as it was meant to do, nestling securely in new moorings, aloof and imperturbable, unconsciously providing the rhythm for the commercial and other activities swirling beneath its superior prominence.

And now we can sing like `Ol' Blue Eyes' used to, "Ring-a-ding-ding".

Of course this column is revisiting the Stabroek dilemma, highlighted in our pages quite recently, and we couldn't be more delighted.

At the time, we couldn't tell where the money would come from. The cash-strapped City Council certainly could not have provided the wherewithal, and furthermore, we were not certain that our City Fathers would allow this historic edifice the priority we felt it deserved.

Now we see that they have. And they are in a frantic search for funding. They will go hat in hand to the Government, which they claim owes them millions anyhow, and to sympathetic banking institutions.

Another source is there to be tapped, the Urban Development Programme; but this is not yet quite on stream, and the Stabroek scenario demands much urgency.

Just like the bell in the market's clock steeple, we understand that the entire structure now exists precariously, and it is perhaps only divine providence that has kept it from being consumed in a raging conflagration. From what we have heard, the incendiary would not be some disturbed fire-starter. The villain would be the decrepit, decaying, dry-as-dust wiring that brings power to the many stalls which, for the visitor, constitute the bewildering maze that is our famous market.

Stallholders tell of scary experiences with exposed wires bursting into flame, and falling on to their inflammable merchandise, threatening to reduce to ashes most of their life-long investments, as well as consuming those of their fellow-businessmen in one great whoosh.

The City Council would like to shut the market gates almost immediately, and at once another major problem looms. Where will all the stallholders go? They will not just fold up their wares and steal away in the night.

The other municipal markets are bursting at their seams. Except the one at Mon Repos of course, but then no one wants to go there, and if you were to put it into the Stabroek, there would still be room enough for a number of football teams to stage practice matches.

Yes, we do not build them the way we used to. The question of where they will go is a vexing one indeed. However, unfortunately, there seems to be no alternative to the immediate closing of the Stabroek Market.

In the long-term, it would be better for the stallholders to pack up and leave and come back, than to have no place to come back to at all.

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