Straw Vendors Declare ‘War’ on The Nation

Thursday 25th, November 2010 / 10:24 Published by

A rebellious group of vendors at the Straw Market declared “war” on the government and threatened to tear down the walls of the new $11 million straw market building.

The vendors were expressing their anger after Minister of Public Works and Transport Neko Grant announced new rules and policy changes that will apply to the new market.

Speaking at the roof-wetting ceremony, Mr Grant informed vendors that counterfeit goods will not be allowed in the new market and that vendor licenses will be restricted to Bahamian citizens only.

He also indicated that rents will increase from $800 per year to $2400 – $3000 per year, or $200-$250 per month – still a bargain for retail space on Bay Street in downtown Nassau.

Esther Thompson, president of Straw Business Persons Association, called the government a “joke” and said, “…the war is on.”

She said that the “walls” of the new market should “come down”.

Mr Grant said the new policies are geared to assist “in the more effective and efficient management of the new Bay Street straw market.”

But Ms Thompson drew cheers and applause when she said that vendors intend to defy the new rules.

“Whatever could come through customs, that is what straw vendors are going to sell,” she said.

This, despite the fact that nine straw vendors were recently arrested in New York and charged with the trafficking of counterfeit goods.

A few vendors agreed with the prohibition on counterfeit goods but still thought that the rent increases were extreme.

Calling the rental fees a tax, Ms Thompson said that they should be based on the individual vendor’s ability to pay.  Many vendors agreed.

Judy Rolle, a vendor for over 30 years, said most of her peers were not making enough money to pay such a high amount.

However, Mr Grant said that the current situation in the Straw Market cannot continue after the new market building is completed.

He said the current rent schedule was based on the fact that the vendors were opertating under a tent, ever since the old straw market building burned down in 2001.

“… we’re building a world-class facility. We are talking a mere, $6 to $8 to a day (in rent fees) and where else on God’s earth can you find space for that kind of money?” Mr Grant remarked.

Most Bahamians interviewed by BahamasB2B said they are in full support of the new policies and rent increases.  Many felt that the vendors were unappreciative of the tremendous opportunity presented to them by the taxpaying public.

“If the vendors declare war on the government they are declaring war on all of us,” a man who identified himself as Derrick told BahamasB2B.

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