By Devina Samaroo
Almost two years after rehabilitation works began on the Kitty Market, the project is nowhere near completion and vendors are growing frustrated having to endure unfair conditions coupled with a decline in sales and higher expenses as they await the announcement of the facility’s brand new opening.
Led by Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Juan Edghill, vendors rallied in a protest action outside of the Kitty Market on Saturday morning, alleging poor supervision of the project, and that workers show up to work to play table tennis and build coffins.
The vendors, some of whom travel all the way from Mahaicony, East Coast Demerara (ECD), to ply their trade, also decried the conditions they are now forced to work in – an open space where they are affected by rain and sun, flies and a terrible garbage situation.
In some cases too, vendors alleged that they are being forced to make double payments to the City Council – a daily rental fee to vend on the road corners and a monthly fee in order to safeguard stalls in the Kitty Market for its reopening.
Annette Singh, a vendor for over 26 years, told News Room that the vendors are suffering as she vented about the garbage situation.
“Nobody cleans the garbage here. When City Council truck come, they don’t come over this side, they just come in front the market there and clean the garbage. We have other garbage here and when other trucks pass, we have to pay to dispose of the garbage,” Singh explained.
Bashudeen Zaman, who has been vending for over 37 years, complained about having to pay two rents.
“They promised us they would have done this market within a few months and still we waiting, we suffering out here in the sun and rain and we still paying a rent, Plus I also paying a monthly rent since they close the market. So you paying rent for over there and over here…If you don’t pay the monthly rent in time, they will be charged arrears. I don’t know how they gonna charge arrears for a place they are not occupying,” he stated.
FForty-three-year-old Bibi Ferguson, who has been selling at the market with her mother since she was a little girl, complained that the workers who are showing up at the worksite are not doing their job efficiently.
“When they come, them ain’t doing no work. Who ain’t lay down, they sit down, table tennis playing upstairs whole day. That’s wasting the Council’s money, wasting taxpayers’ money, wasting our money that we pay to them,” she vented.
Meanwhile, parliamentarian Edghill blasted the Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan over the slow progress of the works at the Kitty Market.
“The grand plan was to have the Kitty Market renovated. Yes, it needed fixing and repairs. But here we are today, $240M plus already expended, four deadlines missed and we still don’t know the date of its completion or the final sum of what it would cost for its completion,” Edghill told News Room.
Bulkan, along with a delegation, recently visited the market to get a first-hand update on the progress of the workers. A statement from the Ministry disclosed that the Ministry would pump an additional $25M into the project.
Restoration works on the Kitty Market began on February 12, 2016, and was supposed to be completed by May 26, 2016 for Guyana’s Jubilee Anniversary. However, City Hall could not provide funds for the continuation of repairs on the $240 million structure. As such, a new deadline was set –November 2016, but this was not met.
Vendors were forced to move out and ply their trade on the street corners near the market but have complained of a significant decline in sales since the relocation.