Yangon street vendors resist YCDC market plans

Despite the best efforts of local authorities to clean up Yangon’s streets, vendors say they are unwilling or unable to move into new purpose-built markets being built by Yangon City Development Committee.

Business is booming along main roads and outside bazaars and supermarkets, with vendors selling everything from snacks to clothes to second hand electronics, books and newspapers.

Yet this thriving trade is blocking traffic and leading to litter problems, according to YCDC.

To address the issue, the local authority has commissioned a number of new markets in the hope of moving vendors off the streets.

Sellers will each be offered a 4 square-foot space to sell their food or products in two-storey markets across the city, said a senior officer from YCDC’s markets department.

Once they have finished selling for the day, vendors will then be responsible for cleaning their space, and storing equipment including stalls, chairs and other products, said the senior officer.

The markets are around 80 percent finished, he said, and spaces have already been reserved for those who sell within 300 square feet of each new market. YCDC has no plans to collect fees, he said.

While street vendors currently do pay fees to the township markets department, many say they can make good money on the streets and are less than enthusiastic about moving.

“We’ve been selling on the street for a long time. We can’t rent a place. It’s very expensive,” said Ma Wathone, who sells traditional snacks in South Okkalapa township.

“We haven’t heard anything from YCDC about space in a new market. If they will really offer this, I don’t want to go. Our customers are here, near to my house, and we cannot carry our raw materials very far.”

The number of street vendors and mobile vendors is growing as rental prices in Yangon rise, she said. Some say they do not want to move to an indoor market for fear that customers won’t come.

U Kyaw, who sells wafer snacks in downtown Yangon said “I am selling my snacks from a cart because I can move from street to street to find customers, and I don’t need to pay for land space. If YCDC tries to arrest us once the markets are open, we can run away.”

Other vendors said they are not responsible for the traffic, and that congestion has built up in Yangon as a result of too many cars on the road, without a proper system. Vendors have been selling on the streets for many years, said fruit seller Daw Mi Thay, but traffic woes are a more recent phenomenon.

“We have been selling in Thingangyun township for 10 years,” she said. “When we first started, there were more street sellers than there are now. Many former street sellers now have their own shops.”

However, taxi and bus drivers blame congestion on street sellers, said driver U Soe from Bahan township.

“I know that drivers drive recklessly, but street vendors are one of the factors adding to the traffic jams. In San Pya Market, the vendors cover half of the street and we have to drive carefully around them,” he said.

For U Myo, who lives in North Okkalapa, while convenience stores are increasingly opening, people are accustomed to buying from mom-and-pop stores and street sellers.

Mom-and-pop shops and street stalls are more flexible on pricing, and people can buy snacks for as little as K50. On the other hand, people can be afraid to enter convenience stores, which are more expensive, said the owner of a small shop in Thanlyin township.

Once the markets are complete, if YCDC tries to move sellers, this way of life will change, he said. The local authority is building six new markets and renovating 10 old markets in Ahlone, Kyeemyindaing, Hlaing, Thaketa, Insein, Mingalardon, Hlaing Tharyar, Mayangone, Shwe Pyi Thar, Seikgyi Kanaungto and East Dagon Townships.

YCDC plans to spend K10 billion on the entire project, said the markets department official.

“This project is being built with YCDC’s budget, and not in cooperation with any other organisation,” he said.

Source: Myanmar Times

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