We welcome efforts to revamp vending at Charlotte Street, Port of Spain.
The latest intervention of Port-of-Spain Mayor Joel Martinez is necessary if we are to rehabilitate the experience offered by our capital city to commuters, pedestrians and tourists.
It is lamentable, however, that it often takes the staging of major events for us to notice the flaws of current arrangements. It appears that it is only when Carnival or some other hectic season comes along that we are willing to acknowledge that certain things are not working. Such belated acknowledgement often results in temporary knee-jerk fixes that may address concerns in the short-run but fail to offer enduring solutions. Charlotte Street needs a long-term solution which must be a part of plans to revitalise our capital.
That said, the current plans come on the heels of several changes which have been introduced. A clear effort has been made by the Port-of-Spain Corporation to streamline vending times, reconfigure the vending area and to standardise vending tents. But the overall experience remains chaotic. Bottleneck is still a problem even as vending times have been limited to the latter part of the week.
The announcement now of a planned suspension of vending activities in April for cleaning the street gives vendors adequate notice. However, it is equally important for the city to be as clear as possible on what its plans are moving forward. While the State must act in the interest of the population at large, and not only one segment, vendors are nonetheless entitled to have some say in future developments. But all must realise that the market is about more than just the narrow interests of vendors and businesses.
Charlotte Street is a vibrant and important centre of activity within the capital. It serves a wide cross section of the population who depend on it for access to fresh fruit and vegetables. The greater emphasis currently being placed on good eating habits has seen many market spaces spring throughout the country, demonstrating a robust demand for healthy foodstuff. Market spaces are a vital part of the changing landscape. They should, therefore, be nurtured and facilitated.
If we are serious about revitalising our capital, then we must find a way to make Charlotte Street work better. It has the potential to enhance the Port of Spain experience. Authorities must not shirk from change. Nor must they be afraid to market the market’s potential.