Thu | Sep 23, 2021

Mayor rejects Golding’s claim about unfair treatment of craft vendors

Published:Friday | June 25, 2021 | 12:11 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer
Montego Bay Mayor Leeroy Williams
Montego Bay Mayor Leeroy Williams

WESTERN BUREAU:

Montego Bay’s Mayor Leeroy Williams has rubbished claims by opposition leader Mark Golding that the St James Municipal Corporation (StJMC) has not been adequately addressing the concerns of craft vendors, whose businesses have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the contrary, Williams says the StJMC has done much to ease the strain on the craft vendors, including granting them waivers on some of the fees they would have paid under normal circumstances.

“The municipal corporation granted the craft vendors a 100 per cent waiver on their rent payment for April, May, and June in 2020, and they got a 50 per cent waiver from July 2020 to June 2021,” said Williams. “So, when Mr Golding states that the vendors are being strangled economically through rigidities, the realities of what they are facing are not being taken into account, he is being very disingenuous.”

During a recent tour of the St James capital, Golding said that the western city’s craft vendors, including those who ply their trade at the Harbour Street Craft and Cultural Village in downtown Montego Bay, had complained to him that the authorities have not been addressing their concerns.

“Some of them [craft vendors] owe rent and taxes, which is not surprising given what they have been through in the COVID-19 pandemic where there are virtually no tourists coming into the country,” Golding said at the time. “They are being told that they cannot get their licences if their rents are not paid up, and that to me is an absolutely counterproductive approach.”

He added, “Their licence applications are being delayed, due, no doubt, to some kind of bureaucratic inefficiency, but it impacts them in a real way because they cannot access the hotels to sell if they do not have their licences in place.”

But in rejecting Golding’s assertions, Williams said the StJMC had held three meetings with the craft vendors between February and May this year over the decision to scale back the corporation’s operations at the craft market.

“The fact is that, since January 2021, three meetings were held with the craft vendors on February 9, April 21, and May 20. Representatives from the municipal corporation pointed out to them that COVID-19 is having a deleterious effect not only on their business as craft vendors, but also on the operations of the municipal corporation,” said Williams.

“I want to say to the management of the Harbour Street Craft and Cultural Village Association that they need to be more transparent, accountable, and inclusive in dealing with their members. We have reached out to the craft vendors, but they have not expressed a sense of gratitude; if they had, how else would the opposition leader come to the conclusion that he did?”

According to Williams, between April 2020 and March 2021, the total revenue earned from the Harbour Street Craft and Cultural Village and the Old Fort Craft Market was J$2,569,610, far less than the corporation’s expenditure of J$38,127,931.93 on both facilities.

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