Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Editorial: Vending crackdown - here we go again

Published:Saturday | December 5, 2015 | 12:00 AM

In a country like ours where thousands are unemployed or unemployable, entrepreneurship is well and alive in the form of street vendors peddling an assortment of wares to eke out a living to take care of their families. Street vending has long been an integral part of life in our cities and major towns, and these activities reach a crescendo during holiday periods, with Christmas being the biggest commercial season of the year.

It is a fact that when itinerant vendors set up makeshift markets or offer personal service such as hairdressing, they often choke and obstruct busy streets with pushcarts or goods, and they can create a nightmare for persons trying to navigate bustling downtown shopping districts.

The safety and welfare of citizens is often compromised by the activities of vendors. But let's not forget that these vendors are in a desperate struggle for survival. Their presence on the streets marks a survivalist endeavour more than anything else.

In its attempt to administer the affairs of the Corporate Area for the benefit of all its citizens, the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC) has come up with a system of regulations and licensing for vending activities. However, many of these rules are ignored by vendors and a near-chaotic situation often exists in the downtown kingston shopping area. This gives rise to tension between municipal officers and vendors. And this is when the KSAC usually takes action. Predictably, this action follows a well-worn pattern: destroy stalls, confiscate goods, and get illegal vendors off the streets. And days or weeks later, they all return.

One such operation is now in full swing, and this latest crackdown has brought the issue of street vending into sharp focus once again as consumers and hawkers look to the usually busy Christmas season. The vendors have been vigorously arguing their case in the media not to be overlooked as part of the

economy. In defending their activities, they say there are no jobs for them and that they have no alternative but to peddle their wares. One vendor was so distraught when his goods were seized that he tearfully pleaded his right to make a living the best way he knows how.

Clearly, the KSAC needs to establish a greater level of engagement with street vendors. We do not expect or endorse accommodation that breaches laws or that jeopardises public safety.

However, vendors have proven their resilience and their numbers increase with rapid urbanisation. They will not go away. The KSAC and other policymaking agencies should, therefore, include vendors in their plans to make Kingston a better place in which to do business.

Stop-start crackdowns won't cut it. Rein in and drive out lawless hawkers - and sustain that intolerance for disorder. But, for those vendors who are willing to abide by the regulations, we urge the KSAC to help, rather than hinder, their survival efforts.