Straw vendors say they continue to feel forgotten and disrespected by government officials after neither the deputy prime minister nor prime minister during their budget communication presentations in the House of Assembly gave any indication of when the vendors might be allowed back to work, President of the Straw Vendors Advancement Association Celestine Eneas told Guardian Business yesterday, adding that the situation has prompted some vendors to give up on their trade.
Eneas said the government continues to press the straw vendors to get vaccinated in order to return to work. But some vendors, like herself, are already vaccinated and the government does not seem to be making any preparations for them to return to the straw market.
“I thought that even if it wasn’t open, we would hear some date, seeing that the cruise ships are now returning,” she said.
“Vendors are giving up left, right and center. Plenty vendors will not be returning to the market because they are fed up. Everybody else know when they going back to work.”
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister, who is responsible for the straw market told this paper yesterday that the government is “taking the advice of the Ministry of Health and anticipates making an announcement soon”.
Eneas lamented that work has been done on the building during the COVID-19 lockdown period, while vendors were given only ten supervised minutes in the 15 months the market has been closed, to check on the items in their stalls.
Eneas said she was not even allowed to wait inside the market while she waited for a meeting with the Straw Market Authority to begin.
“I had to stand outside the market and wait,” she said.
Eneas said vendors need to know when they will be allowed back to work so that they can prepare.
Eneas claimed that while the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation created a plan to bring the market back online last June, nothing was done to prepare the market to be reopened. She said the market remains devoid of social distancing signs and other COVID-related signage and hardware.
“We feel disrespected,” she said.