‘Modest’ compensation, temporary relocation among possible solutions for Parika market vendors


By Sharda Bacchus


The government and vendors affected by last week’s fire at the Parika market on the East Bank of Essequibo are locked in discussions on possible solutions to provide much-needed relief.

Among the solutions promised, according to Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh, is some modest compensation to help vendors recoup their losses and temporary relocation so that they can continue plying their trade.

At the sidelines of an event on Wednesday, Minister Singh told members of the media that “multiple channels” are currently being discussed with the vendors.

“We spoke about various options, in terms of assistance and support that can be provided; ways in which support can be provided to get some people back into business, including some modest financial support. Not full compensation because we are not in a position, the government is not in a position where we can compensate every victim of the fire,” the Finance Minister emphasised.

The affected vendors meeting with President Irfaan Ali and other government officials at State House (Photo: Office of the President/February 13, 2023)

To further assist the vendors, Dr Singh noted that the government is also working with the banks to secure “low-cost” loans for them.

“You know historically we have been encouraging low-interest loans for small businesses. So any way, in which we can support them or work with them, work with the banks, encourage the banks to give them [vendors] low-income loans, obviously there would be an interest rate applicable to it but as favourable as possible to make it as least burdensome as possible,” the Finance Minister explained.

However, Dr Singh highlighted that before compensation is provided, the “wide range” of scenarios will have to be verified.

In the meantime, Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Nigel Dharamlall said the vendors will be temporarily relocated to an area in the vicinity of the market.

“We have had some discussions and we have to find a way to make sure that they get back into some mode of business as quickly as possible…Right around the vicinity of the market; not in any way that will contravene the flow of traffic,” Minister Dharamlall said.

He also noted that the market will be rebuilt. But before this, the contract will have to be reviewed.

“The intention is to get the market completed…we would have to relook at the contract to see how best we could get the contract completed,” he said.

According to Dharamlall, the government is also mulling penalties for whoever is at fault.

“We will have to look at the engineering report, we will have to look at the fire report and determine to what extent the penalty clauses will be implemented,” Dharamlall said.

The News Room visited the fire scene on Wednesday where contractors were busy removing the debris and some vendors are still unsure about their next move.

The affected vendors meeting with President Irfaan Ali and other government officials at State House (Photo: Office of the President/February 13, 2023)

They are eagerly awaiting feedback from the government.

One vendor, Rovena Williams, told the News Room on Wednesday that she has resorted to selling beverages around the market area.

The single-parent mother of seven said she is now dependent on her two sons.

“Since Friday we cannot do anything…I finding it difficult because I got to wait till when the weekend come for my two sons work and get pay,” she said.

The fire started at 15:14hrs on February 10; a Guyana Fire Service investigation revealed that it was caused by residue from a welding torch that fell into a storage bond and ignited nearby combustible materials.

The Parika market had 160 stalls occupied by 44 vendors. Dharamlall said that about 16 vendors were vending illegally on the road.

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