The Unemployment and Haphazard Vending Delimma
November 15, 2019
The Unemployment and Haphazard Vending Delimma

The online Midweek issue of SEARCHLIGHT this past Tuesday carried a front page story entitled “VENDORS REMOVED” covering the actions by police in removing vendors from certain areas in Kingstown deemed to be problematic. It is not the first time that such action has been taken and predictably the action has generated much public comment.

SEARCHLIGHT had this to say in part: “The move is said to have come following complaints from civilians and business owners of feeling intimidated by some of the people who are attracted to some of the stalls in these areas”. It went on to add that two shootings in the areas in recent times have heightened safety concerns but noted that, according to the police, while these incidents may have acted as a catalyst for the removal, “it was long in coming”.

There have been strong protests by the vendors so removed and some support from members of the public. The criticisms of the removal have been based around the economic situation in the country and the necessity for people to “eat ah food”, as the popular saying goes. The argument is that given the unemployment situation in the country, people who don’t have jobs must seek ways and means to take care of their families and vending offers one such opportunity.

While no one can deny the extent of the unemployment problem nor that these are difficult times for the poor, is vending, especially in the haphazard manner that is exemplified in Kingstown, the only answer? Should we continue to adopt a willy-nilly, free-for–all approach to it? No one can deny that it is indeed a major challenge in our nation’s capital, but is regulation the only solution?

Most of the vendors affected seem to be young men. This is a segment of our population about which much concern has been raised. Those concerns relate mainly to the reluctance of many of them to seek and take advantage of opportunities for training and education to make them more employable. Vending, in a dog-eat-dog climate, seems to be the easiest recourse, at least for those who want to make an honest living, but it is not necessarily the best, most rewarding or most productive. There needs to be serious engagement with this sector in order to help to inspire them to seek opportunities for training and education. We have a serious dearth of trained tradesmen, how can this be addressed?

While there is no doubt that Kingstown cannot continue to be left to go further on the path of lawlessness and chaos, strong-arm tactics are but a tiny part of any comprehensive solution. The needs of those affected must be taken into consideration and alternative means of income-earning must be identified.

Finally, the situation has not arisen overnight, so why do we leave situations to fester until they become social problems before we attempt to tackle them? The same attitude exists in relation to squatting. Then the politicians, on both sides come out, tugging one way or the other. We are all affected in the long run and must therefore all be prepared to play our part in finding solutions in the interest of peace, public order and human development.