A national quality movement requires discipline

Consumer Concerns By Eileen Cox
Stabroek News
October 15, 2000

Please join me as I walk from Fogarty's to Guyana Stores. You say that you have not been in this vicinity for some time. Well, you will see some changes. We will have to walk in single file on this very wide pavement as the stalls of vendors are preventing the free, unimpeded movement of pedestrians. Be sure not to jam any of the stalls and do allow pedestrians travelling in the opposite direction to pass.

Many consumers have expressed concern that the whole of Water Street has been transformed by persons who claim the right to sell on pavements, ignore the rights of other persons and resent discipline and order in the society.

In 1993, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce appointed a committee to deal with the problem of persons selling on the pavements. There were several considerations as far as the business community was concerned. At the time, six stores were affected by:

* entrances blocked;
* same goods on display;
* parking area congested;
* security problems;
* poor sanitary conditions;
* interception of potential customers;
* indecent language;
* noise;
area being damaged.

The committee interviewed some of the vendors. Most of them expressed a willingness to move, provided a suitable venue could be earmarked for them. They wanted to be where the action was; that was the snag.

At the time, a section of Merriman's Mall was being allocated for vending. But no Merriman's Mall, no Stelling View, no Regent Street Arcade will, without firm action, restore Water Street to its former glory. As vendors move out, others replace them. Some vendors carry on their business in more than one location. To me, it is difficult to understand why vendors desire such large stalls and why they insist on having all their stock on display so that their stalls are packed high with any array of underwear, towels and other small items.

The committee, as I remember, suggested that the vendors use trays of a reasonable size. Spots were marked on the pavement and numbered. A suggestion was made that they should team up and open their own shops if they wanted to sell on a large scale. The Guyana Stores Bond was under consideration as a location to house all who wanted to be where the action was.

Today, if you wish to get onto the pavement on the western side of Water street, between Fogarty's and Stabroek Market, you must walk some distance to find an opening. The stalls are standing cheek by jowl in order to control the movement of those who pilfer. The view from the eastern side is heart-rending. The vendors disregard the right of consumers to use the pavements that were built for them.

The clearing of Regent Street will restore some hope that discipline will return to the city. However, there are still points to be settled. We should never forget that we are our brother's keeper. We need to be concerned about the manner in which the clearance was done. We need always to remember that there is no dole system in Guyana. How do people live when there is no income? Should there not have been a period of notice? Should there not be training in skills? Some of the female vendors are often seen crocheting. Could they be helped with marketing of their handiwork? Dr Chatterpaul Ramcharran has spoken about the need for a National Quality Movement.

If we are to have a National Quality Movement we must begin with a restoration of our culture, we must have visible signs that we are interested in discipline and order.

The way things are today, many consumers can still only envision a happy life if they can leave these shores. Let us work together in a National Quality Movement.

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