Many of the vendors seeking permission to ply their trade along The City streets will be sorely disappointed, with the Ministry of Agriculture warning some will not be accommodated.
Officials from the ministry, along with members of the Barbados Association of Retailers and Vendors (BARVEN), toured sections of Bridgetown that traditionally attract a large number of vendors, as the ministry seeks to exercise greater control.
Manager of Markets in the Ministry of Agriculture Sherlock King said there were not set limits to the number of permits issued per street. However, he said there were several factors that could lead to a rise or fall in the number approved over time.
“Of course everybody will not, [and] cannot, be accommodated on the streets . . . . We are also aware of the issue with respect to safety and security for the general public. So any decision that we take will have to be taken against the background that we are looking at sanitation, the issue of pedestrian traffic and balancing that with the demands and requirements of vendors who may have, for all intents and purposes, children and livelihood and they may want to make an income,” King said.
Today’s tour along Busby’s Alley, Swan Street, Bolton Lane, Victoria Street, Middle Street and Marhill Street came over a week after police swooped down on vendors along the Charles Duncan O’Neal Bridge in The City and ejected those who did not have valid permits.
A number of vendors have since complained that they were being denied the permits they need to earn a living.
King steered clear of the Charles Duncan O’Neal Bridge controversy. However, he told journalists vendors generally received extensions but with conditions in some cases, including the option to ply their trade along a different street.
“We have had to have a suspension on permits but walking through this morning we have identified some areas that we can say we can consider. But again we have to take that within context of Bridgetown. So we are not going to take a willy-nilly and a sudden decision in that regard but we will in every way, try to assist wherever possible to that effort.”
The tour allowed the authorities to hear the vendors’ concerns in order to formulate solutions “to the benefit of everybody”, King explained.
It was not meant to prevent vendors from conducting business but to ensure there was a more “regulated environment in which vendors can operate without fear of prosecution or criminalization”, he insisted.
He said the top brass of the ministry would discuss today’s findings “as quickly as possible” before making a decision on the number of permits to be issued.
“It has to be taken within the context of the law and we will also communicate our decisions and so on to the representative to the vendors as well,” the official explained.
BARVEN President Alister Alexander welcomed today’s initiative, saying his association supported a structured policy for vending.
“We are with the ministry as far as the health stipulations are [concerned], and even pedestrian concerns.
“This is historic Bridgetown and we cannot imagine historic Bridgetown without vending. All we are asking is that it is done in a structured way. We are welcoming the vendor-friendly approach by the Manager of Markets,” he said, before offering to sit with officials to discuss solutions.
However, some vendors who spoke with Barbados TODAY took issue with how the situation was being handled.
Donna Callender has been vending for 30 years and operates on Marhill Street from the back of her van.
She complained that five years after her last permit expired she was yet to get a renewal.
“I went through this five years ago and now five years [later] I going through the same thing . . . they refuse to renew the permit.
“Why they can’t renew my permit now?” she questioned, adding she was no criminal.
“I have bills to pay and I want to put food on my table for my children. That is all I want. I can’t go from ‘bout here, I am a Bajan. I feeling 50 years coming up and we independent, I am an independent woman too. All I want back is this. I want back my permit,” the St George resident said.
Andra George, a vendor along Middle Street, told Barbados TODAY it was unfair that vendors were being told to get licences but were being denied when they apply, despite operating at the various locations for many years.
“Everybody have to get through because things really brown with everyone. Even though we have a job it is really rough for us, much less to those who don’t have any,” George said, when asked about the competition in the area.
Delinca Williams, who also plies her trade on Middle Street said there was nothing left for street vendors to do when they were being turned away after applying for the permit.
“The Government don’t have work for us so we have to try it on our own. So if they want to get more money coming into the country it is better they issue the permit so we can make a dollar at the end of the day and they get something too,” said Williams, who has been selling in The City for over 20 years.
Margo Hoyte has operated on Marhill Street for 43 years. She was worried today because after nearly half a century she was asked to move, having had to wait for six years to have her last permit renewed.
“All the old permits may be home tied up. The last time I pay is in 2010 and they told me don’t pay any more,” she told Barbados TODAY.
Hoyte said she applied for the permit recently and was told to return on Tuesday. She did, but was turned down. She returned on Thursday and was denied again.