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Straw vendors must be reasonable

It was shocking to hear some straw vendors last week object to the proposed rent increases at the new market. Their behavior demonstrated classic ungratefulness.

The government has spent around$12 million building the new market. In fact, what the government is doing for vendors is unfair, considering that few others in business receive such special treatment.

All the government is asking vendors to pay is$200 to$250 per month in rent. That is not much. Vendors must accept that the large investment made by the government will require contributions towards the maintenance and operation of the market.

That contribution should cover the market’s operation costs, ensuring that the government does not subsidize in perpetuity the commercial activity of private citizens.

The government is also right to ban the sale of counterfeit goods, and to only allow Bahamian citizens licenses to operate in the new market.

The government, however, appears to have botched the consultation process again. When the announcement was made about the new rent increases last week, many vendors reacted as if they were hearing this information for the first time. If that was the case, the government should only blame itself for what is to come.

Straw vendors are a vocal group. If they are not pacified the opening of the market, which is to be one of the major achievements of this Free National Movement(FNM)administration next year, will be a disaster.

Instead of happy vendors thanking the government for the beautiful structure, the FNM may be faced with chaos.

This is why consultation is important.

Consultation should have included if it did not vendors being a part of the rent calculation process. Consultation should have also included informing vendors of the date of the public statement on the new rent structure.

“The war is on,”said Esther Thompson, Straw Business Persons Society president, last week at the new market site in response to the government’s announcement about the rent and policy changes to come.

“We need the government to tell us what this is all about because we don’t know.”

On Monday on the Star 106.5 FM talk show”Jeffrey”, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham appeared ready for a fight, describing himself as a”general”if war is desired by vendors.

Ingraham should not allow himself to be drawn into a fight. He should seek peace with vendors. The government’s policy changes are wise. It must now work on explaining further to vendors why these changes are so important.

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