Bogyoke shopkeepers talk hopes and fears

Local businesses at Yangon’s most famous bazaar, Bogyoke Market, are banking on the new government for better economic times.

Since 2011 there has been an unprecedented influx of foreign tourists, and nowhere are they more evident than at the 90-year-old Bogyoke Market.

Despite this, vendors said they have faced an economic downturn over the last five years.

“I make less income now than I did five years ago, and I earn less and less each year,” said gem shop owner Daw Sita, who has worked at the market for 47-years.

“However, that is all going to change. Now that the country has taken a major step following the landslide election victory and the new presidency, I have high hopes for the improvement of the economy of the market.”

Another gem shop owner, who goes by the name Mr Gopal and has been at Bogyoke market since 1970, said the country has been waiting for an educated and competent leader for more than 60 years.

“Surely, there will be positive outcomes from this, but not immediately,” he said. “There might be some obstacles at first, but I believe everything will work out well.”

For some, economic benefits have already begun. Myanmar’s GDP per capita has been on the rise over the last few years, and an explosion of foreign interest – both from investors and visitors – has helped bump up business.

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Lacquer ware shop owner Daw Myint Myint Soe said that she has seen some benefits.

“In the last one-to-two years, I started to earn more,” said the handicraft store owner. “I can also see the immense increase in the tourism rate in the market every year.”

“I hope this trend will keep going. After the new president starts, I think there will be even more improvements for our market because there will be educated people leading us.”

On a smaller scale, however, vendors were not so optimistic, expressing dismay at the burden being placed on the market.

Another gem shop owner said that Bogyoke ranked among the top two tourist destinations in Myanmar – Shwedagon Pagoda being the other – and worried for its upkeep.

“I want to preserve the market without destroying its ancient aspect through a better cleaning and maintenance system,” she said.

Meanwhile, a traditional food seller said that if everyone took responsibility for themselves, cleanliness at the market wouldn’t be an issue. “But not everyone is,” she added.

And though the market is a tourist hotspot, it is also a parking nightmare, shopkeepers said.

Gem lab owner and gemologist Ko Min Phone Naing said visitors are less likely to visit the marketplace if there is no space to park vehicles.

“There have been several occasions that customers come to my lab for a gems test, but their drivers have to drive around the market until the testing procedure is done. The same goes for tourists,” he said.

“If there is little or no parking available, there will be fewer customers willing to visit the market.”

However, even parking issues won’t keep droves of foreigners and locals from whiling their way through the market each day, bargaining for everything from pink wigs to tailor-made longyis.

Many expect its history will extend ahead into a bright future.

“If Bogyoke Market is better maintained, it can become famous at an international level because old markets like this are rare nowadays,” said gem shop owner Daw Sita. “We should value it.”

Source: Myanmar TImes

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