Some vendors disenchanted with $260M TPL lot By Nigel Williams
Stabroek News
November 17, 2003

Related Links: Articles on vendors
Letters Menu Archival Menu

A change in their environment does not mean a change in business fortunes for some of the vendors installed on the Toolsie Persaud Limited (TPL) Water Street lot.

"Business is still tight," one vendor told this newspaper recently.

Around 500 vendors were actually allocated spots on the land. Some of them never took up their spots while some were there briefly and are now back on the streets selling.

When Justice B.S. Roy ruled on July 26 that the government should pay $260M for compulsory acquisition of the property, efforts were swift in getting the vendors on the land. But since being sent there without basic infrastructure, the market place which is now being described by some as a "Shanty Town" has been left to the vendors for any development.

They have since managed to build a small washroom and with the help of the Council fixed the front fence and patched parts of the tarmac.

TPL has since challenged the court order and Justice of Appeal Claudette Singh on September 5 granted a stay of execution of Justice Roy's earlier decision.

This, according to Clerk of Markets Schulder Griffith, has been preventing the council from carrying out works on the land. Among some of the works which should have already been done on the land were the resurfacing of the tarmac using asphalt, the construction of sanitary blocks and the installation of electricity.

Moreover, the vendors were to have agreed on the types of structures to be used and also a management committee for the mall should have been in place. None of this has been done and the vendors have built various sizes of stalls with different materials and specifications.

Griffith said the M&CC continued to maintain the property, noting that they did regular cleaning among other works. With regards to paying a market rental, Griffith told this newspaper that they had not begun collecting any, adding that this would be done when the court matter was resolved.

But one vendor said he was already fed-up of the situation.

"People can't wait on dem to look after this place. Is people livelihood them playing with, we have to survive somehow. And size of stall and all these things ain't matter."

At first glance one could easily mistake the mall for a storage bond with a number of plyboard-made stalls in a cluster.

Some of these have no roofs and as such the vendors have been using tarpaulins and other materials.

Stabroek News was told by one vendor that when the property was first acquired hundreds of vendors, some of whom had never sold on Water Street had turned up for spots, "but now that the heat is on they ain't coming back."

Business looked slow the day Stabroek News was there. According to the vendor, there was a mad rush for spaces in front and those who got spaces to the back of the land were finding business extremely difficult.

One woman said she was almost at the point of giving up her spot because of poor business.

"I am coming here everyday and some days I ain't getting no sales. Things really tight out here boy."

The woman, who was allocated a spot at the back of the mall, said she was just surviving.

"This thing is about the survival of the fittest. Everybody is all for themself. When you are at the back here and customers come in the market to buy and they ain't get what they are looking for in front, nobody ain't sending them down at the back."

According to the woman because of the unstructured way in which the market is being run, there is unfair competition and a lack of co-operation among some of the vendors. She said for those reasons and others a number of vendors have left the mall and are selling back on the streets.

Asked whether life was brighter on the street, the woman said yes, adding that she had regular customers when she was on the street, but now they were no longer coming.

Asked about the appearance of the mall, the woman said, "Indeed this place doesn't look good from the road. When you look from outside the place ain't looking good and it is because there is no proper regulation, everybody doing them own thing."

The woman pointed out that because of the lack of regulations persons selling greens and meats had stalls at the front of the market, which she deemed as improper, noting that no modern market facility would have meats selling at front stalls.

The vendors have begun to prepare for Christmas but many of them are not too sure it will be a season of good cheer.