THE state of affairs regarding marketplaces across the country and the conditions under which thousands of vendors and the hundreds of thousands of patrons must operate has been a national headache for decades.
The issue came into sharper focus at a meeting of the Parliament’s Joint Select Committee last Friday. It is one that has been crying out for urgent attention for decades. From Sangre Grande, Mayaro and Rio Claro, Princes Town, San Fernando and Siparia, Fyzabad and Point Fortin, Arima, Tunapuna, San Juan and Port of Spain, there is a set of common threads running right through the relevant discourses.
Just in recent weeks there was the flare-up between vendors at the San Juan market, and the chairman of the San Juan-Laventille Regional Corporation over the council’s attempts to impose a new fee structure.
In Arima, decades of discussions have been held involving successive mayors and the vendor representatives about improving conditions there. There have been discussions over the years for a total relocation of that venue, while several iterations of presumed improvements have been attempted. But to date, even with a round of renovations and ostensible “modernisation” still underway, none of the attempts at finding lasting solutions has sufficed.
At last week’s hearing, one market vendor raised the point, ironically, noting that while consultations were being held to discuss possible ways of improving the system as a whole, “for more than a year a simple thing like fixing air-conditioned units at the Penal market,” remains unattended.
That the meeting, which was called to address the provisions in the proposed local government reform legislation became dominated with issues involving the operations of the markets across the island, speaks loudly to the importance attached to this issue.
Market vendors, and the vital trade in which they are involved with their suppliers, and their combined clientele who “make market” on a weekly basis, represent a significant element in the people to people trading relationships which help to oil a significant part of our commercial relations.
That this happens on as large a scale as it does, at the level of the persons in and on the street, speaks powerfully to how importantly a properly functioning local government system can and should operate. One call was issued for greater collaboration between market association representatives and those of the burgeoning regional Chambers of Commerce in different parts of Trinidad. This certainly is a prompt to be taken on board conscientiously as we move towards a more seamless set of operations.
Local government officials were called on to go out to the market spaces in their respective areas of operation and see for themselves those conditions crying out for attention, and to hear first-hand the complaints and the views of the vendors and their customers.
These ought to help inform the considerations which are going to be made in addressing this vital element in the search for deliverables, upon which effective Local Government Reform should be premised.