Banking on a fruitful Christmas
With 15 days to go before Christmas Day, vendors in downtown Kingston have already started to get their hopes up and are keeping their fingers crossed that the season will bring them a lot of financial gains.
The Jamaica Observer walked some of the streets of downtown on Tuesday, to get feedback from vendors on what their expectations are for this Christmas.
It was clear that their eyes were set on cashing in big time, despite there not being any evidence yet of an influx of people coming to purchase gifts for their families and other items for their homes.
Fish vendor Nicky did not hesitate to declare that business had not yet started to reflect that Christmas is right around the corner â€” which is usually indicated by people spending cash in droves. However, she spoke with a tone of certainty that money will come.
“In the next two weeks, it will be our time to shine. Food is a must and food has to go in people’s house. Right here is where people can come and get the good quality fish that they need,” Nicky said.
Another fish vendor, Tanisha, assumed a positive outlook on the Christmas season.
“I am looking forward to selling a whole lot of fish. I want this Christmas to be like Easter. A nuff fish we sell at Easter. The only thing I want is a more regular garbage collection in downtown,” Tanisha shared.
One woman who didn’t give her name, expressed hope, not so much to be overrun with money for the Christmas season, but for peace to reign all around.
“My hope is that we have a peaceful Christmas and that everybody will be contented in whatever position they are at, at this time. Nobody can take you out of your position, but yourself. Trust God and hope for a peaceful one. Christmas for me is not just to celebrate in the festivities but to celebrate Christ,” she said.
For vendors on West Street, at the intersection with Beckford Street, they were overjoyed that so far this December, they have been enjoying a stench-free environment, and although sales haven’t been huge, they said they are enjoying peace of mind.
In July, the Sunday Observer published a story highlighting the unending sewage problem in the capital city’s business district, which triggered a response from the Government in less than 24 hours. The Government started repair works that were necessary to remove the health risk from the people, who had grown bitter because they had to endure the problem for many months on end. The streets where they sold their goods was overrun with sewage on a regular basis. Even stores were often flooded with sewage.
Minister with responsibility for the environment, Matthew Samuda, said in July that repairs would have been effected on 410 metres of West Street and another 220 metres heading into Matthews Lane. Samuda had touted that the work would “clear the major blocked area which is what is backing up in the transport area and the market”. He also said the work would cost in the region of $200 million.
Last week, the outrage that was displayed months ago by the vendors, shifted to more positive expressions.
Following the intervention of the authorities, who laid new sewer pipes on West Street, the vendors and shoppers are now able to breathe easier.
Their main concern, however, was how they will be able to maximise profits, while they try to keep out of the way of the municipal police, who seldom hesitate to confiscate their goods for not vending in the proper zones, or for other reasons.
“A few months ago it was pure problems with sewage,” one man uttered.
“They have now dealt with the problem the right and proper way. We thank them very much. Things are just moving a bit slow but things will pick up back, so we are not watching that. From the scent is not around, we are grateful. We have to take care of our health because money cannot buy back our health. I see the workmen move from down this side and are now finishing that section further up on West Street. We are happy. Even the Chinese lady said there is no more sewage in her store,” the man said, before explaining that he had to cut the interview short to watch out for the municipal police.
One of the workers in the Chinese store on West Street, which the male street vendor referenced, said that, “We don’t have anything to complain about right now”.
A female vendor, who sells her goods on a sidewalk on Beckford Street, shared that she was experiencing “a pretty good feeling” to be able to vend in a stench-free and sewage-free environment.
“The place was contaminated and it was a hazard to our health. They are still laying pipes on West Street further up from here. But I am not here to judge their pace of work because I don’t know the scope of the problem. What I know, is that the situation before was really a hazard. Many of us got sick as a result of the water that was running. We are now grateful,” she said.