Putting a halt to street vending could result in an unrest

by Latoya Burnham

Police moving street vendors in The City recently.

Any attempts to stop all street vending in Barbados could result in confusion, chaos and perhaps even unrest.

That’s why President of the Barbados Association of Retailers, Vendors and Entrepreneurs, Alister Alexander says he and a delegation will be attending the town hall meeting on the meeting spearheaded by the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry tomorrow night.

He said he and his delegation will be putting their case to the stakeholders expected to attend the meeting on Wednesday night at 6 at Legends Pavilion Bar, Cricket Legends, Fontabelle, St. Michael, moderated by BCCI Executive Director Lisa Gale.

Alexander explained that there was a history to vending that went way back to the days of slavery, and it was used as a tool by the black to better themselves and for economic mobility.

There was room for both established businesses and street vendors to work together, and room in the society for both, he said if the infrastructure was done right.

The president said this was one of the reasons they were working on and hoping to roll out soon what he called the Enhanced Heritage Business Accommodation for Bridgetown Plan to set out how vendors and businesses could survive together.

“We are not about forcing people into any type of vending. We believe that street vending has its place under law and order and the chaos is not caused because street vending has to be chaotic, no. It is because of administration.

Alister Alexander
Alister Alexander

“The problem is not vending, BARVEN says the problem is administration and we have a document we are rolling out … and it speaks to street venders and vending and the proper regulations and the proper relationship we can have with the store owners.

“We have to live together. They are not going to get rid of us, they are not going to get rid of street vending. All they are going to do is make it confusing, more chaotic or it can easily be a spark to social unrest and I say that,” Alexander told Barbados TODAY, stating it was why they were going to the meeting to put their case.

Part of the challenge, he noted, was that vendors were removed from the streets and placed in markets for which there was no proper plan for advancing the businesses in them.

“There is a lot of corralling, when I say corralling, these markets don’t have no type of business structure, they don’t have no plan, ask for a business, what was the business plan when you were constructing this? If the private sector is doing anything and it has to build something, for whatever commercial activity, they are going to think about the commercial activity first and then they are going to build a structure to suit.

“It is not so with Cheapside for instance and you find if you go Cheapside the vendors are trying to get out. They claim unfair competition is given by vendors outside, you think that if everything was well as far as the markets are concerned a customer would choose to be in the sun and rain? When you think through these things something ain’t right, so something in the dynamics not right,” said the president.

Even in the Palmetto Mall, he argued had seen a decline to the point that there was no activity upstairs.

“A lot of these things are not followed up when they are brought to the attention of those in authority. Most of those people were taken off Swan Street and a lot of them are out of business. They were very successful when they were on Swan Street and they built what they claimed to be a lovely place and then I had people asking me what I could do for them… All I could do was sympathise and be broken hearted. These were people who saw a certain social mobility through vending.”

He said he had to beg to get the vendors on Cheapside to move downstairs that market and even for some to vend outside because activity upstairs there too was dead.

“Why would we continue to pretend we are not seeing these things. You going to blame a few vendors on the street for causing this? It’s not making sense.” latoyaburnham@barbadostoday.bb

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