Sunday, December 10, 2017
Shoppers come to Port-of-Spain for the best bargains, however they have to navigate a gauntlet of wreckers, pickpockets, purse and chain snatchers, vagrants, clogged streets and pavements occupied by street vendors to get to the stores.
When it rains the city floods and commuters heading in or out are stuck for hours in traffic gridlock.
The killing and unsolved case of bank employee Shannon Banfield a year ago in the nation’s capital also make many women feel unsafe to venture into the city to do their shopping.
Many of the capital’s businesses have in-house cameras since robberies and shoplifting are prevalent. The security measures such as heavy steel doors are from hard lessons learned from the fire and looting of the July 27, 1990, attempted coup.
Heading into the Christmas season the business owners encounter a perennial problem with delivery trucks unable to park to offload goods because of the street vendors. This is compounded by delivery trucks being wrecked by the police.
And those are two of the reasons why close to 18 businesses have closed on Charlotte Street in the last 36 months and have been replaced by casinos, President of the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) Gregory Aboud said.
Aboud said “Many of those in authority including successive governments are in denial and unwilling to accept that the city of Port-of-Spain is being hammered and battered into worse and worse conditions.
“There is no understanding among those who have the responsibility to protect the city’s interest about the real connections between business prosperity and the life of a city. They somehow have the impression that the city will persist and survive even in the face of the exodus of major business interests.”
The first issue is parking, Aboud said. “While the business community is now trying to respond to incentives given by the Ministry of Finance in the interim, while private multi-level parking is being installed, the police wrecker is voraciously feeding on the carcass of Port-of-Spain.”
He said the wreckers operating out of Sea Lots’ mobile Traffic Branch had stripped Abercromby Street above Independence Square of business. Aboud said Abercromby Street was their first port of call before accessing the rest of the city even though there was no signage of parking restrictions.
He asked what does it profit a shopper to come to Port-of-Spain to save $100 on a pair of shoes or jeans then pay $500 in wrecking fees?
He said if wrecking private cars was not bad enough, the wreckers now resorted to towing commercial vehicles delivering goods to merchants.
Not using the words street vendors, Aboud said the other major issue was the unwillingness of the authorities to exert control of the city streets and to operate them within the ordinance of the rules of the city. The failure to do so, he said, has been causing all sorts of obstructions and difficulties.
Aboud said the very people who claim to be concerned about the “small man” were destroying the very epitome of the jobs and entrepreneurship of Port-of-Spain.
Fakoory: Signs of a decaying PoS since the early 2000s
Dennis Fakoory, chairman of Fakoory and Co Ltd, said in the early 2000s some business people had the vision and realised what was taking place and made the change.
He said in 2008 he sold his property which had been in his family on Charlotte Street for 68 years and relocated to El Socorro because the signs were already beginning to show.
Fakoory said Port-of-Spain used to be traditionally a wholesale environment and people went to shop where they felt comfortable.
He said with the advent of the Internet, more people were doing their own importing and the wholesale businesses in Port-of-Spain were forced to now shift to a more retail-type arrangement to attract more customers.
Fakoory said this worked for a while into the 90s and early 2000s but then the pavements continued to become more and more congested and successive governments and mayoral appointments did not do anything to reverse the trend. It was only a matter of time before Port-of-Spain became a lost city, he added.
He said the place had become more squalid, the environment was less inviting and encouraging to pedestrians and walk-in shoppers.
Fakoory said customers had to squeeze through congested spaces where more than likely at some point they would fall prey to pickpockets. He said that was why shoppers were gravitating to the new, clean malls throughout the entire country.
Fakoory said Port-of-Spain was a dying city on life support right now.
Businesses that moved out of PoS
Over the years, many businesses have moved out of Port-of-Spain. CE Tang Yuk and Co Ltd sold its property on Charlotte Street and now has branches in Mucurapo Road, St James, Long Circular Mall and Trincity Mall. Joseph Nahous & Co Ltd sold its business on Charlotte Street and now operates from Boundary Road, San Juan. Buywise Stores Ltd relocated its business from Charlotte Street to Diego Martin. Nizam Tamer sold its business on Charlotte Street and moved to San Juan.
Other businesses that moved out of Charlotte Street over the years: Nagib Elias Hardware, Male Box, B Nahous, Narwani’s, Kids Rule, Abdullah’s, Lebanese House, Ramdath’s Furniture, Young’s Hardware and Sookoo’s Variety Store.
PoS Mayor: Economic activity slowed down in T&T
Port-of-Spain Mayor Joel Martinez said economic activity on the whole had slowed down in T&T and the capital would be a recipient of that fallout first as it was more developed than many other places.
He said unlike San Fernando and Chaguanas, commercial activity occurred in the last boom in a major way in the late 80s.
Martinez said many residents moved out to allow businesses to thrive because they received top dollar for their homes when Port-of-Spain was bursting at its seams.
Martinez said he was talking with the private sector to brighten up the city for Christmas.
He said people were hard-pressed for funds, there will be no lavish expenditure but lighting will occur.
Source: The Guardian, Dec. 10 CHARLES KONG SOO
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