A DRAMATIC INCREASE OF rent payment by 50% for each market (handicraft) vendor has raised healthy concerns of whether the current rate is meant to assist them to recover, or to add further pressure on their already tight up budgets.
The vendors used to pay VT6, 000 per month to the Port Vila Municipal Council (PVMC) for the former space at the sea front. Now, at a rate of VT450 per day, per vendor will have to pay about VT9, 000 per month (working days).
While the market vendors, who used to sell their products at the now damaged Vila Handicraft Market, appreciate the PVMC support in allowing them to use part of the city market house to sell their handicrafts, they want the government to step in and help them.
TIV contacted the PVMC Market Manager early last week to enquire on this matter, the response was “the handicraft mothers should appreciate the PVMC’s help.” The Market Manager continued to say that the market belongs to the farmers and not handicrafts mamas, therefore the vendors must not talk to the media, or else they would be removed from the market house.
However, the vendors have bravely stepped forward to demand assistance despite the warning. Last week they appeared in the media, and did the PVMC evacuate them? NO! This gives rise to further questions; why is the rent rate high despite TC Pam? And why were they told not to speak to the media?
A concerned mother from the Port Vila Handicraft Market Association said she wished that the government could allocate a certain amount of money to the PVC, for the Mamas Handicraft Market.
“We now need external support from the government, just because we were not prepared before Cyclone Pam,” she said.
She emphasized the fact that they are promoting Vanuatu and contributing to the economy of the country. The vendor claimed that every year the handicraft mamas at seafront contribute VT 30 million to the economy of Vanuatu because they also do direct exports.
“The government should recognize our contribution to the economy of this country and help us after the cyclone. They should allocate funds to the PVMC for the vendors, so that we could use a space freely to sell our handicrafts to tourists until such time when we recover from the disaster,” she explained.
The current rent rate for the Handicraft Mothers selling at the Market house is VT450 per person/per day, and VT50 each for the security provided per night.
The concerned vendor said “even if we don’t sell anything we must dig into our own pockets to get the VT450 and VT50 for the daily rent and for the security. We are just doing it to maintain the trust and relationship with the PVMC although it is a loss for us, because we have nowhere else to go after cyclone Pam damaged all our resources,” she said.
There are about 80 market vendors that are currently selling their handicrafts to tourists at the market house.
There have been a total of 5 cruise ships that have visited Port Vila since TC Pam over a month ago, before that it took only 2 weeks for that same number of cruise ships to visit. This sudden drop in demand adds economic pressure to the market vendors.
The majority of vendors sell their handicrafts when the cruise ships visit, on most day’s still a good number of vendors continue to sell.
Economic-wise, if we calculate the daily fees spent by approximately 80 vendors since April 8, the mothers will have already spent approximately more than VT500, 000 on the rent and security fees. This amount, though not yet in business for a full month, already doubles twice the amount that they used to pay per month at the now damaged Handicraft Market.
The concerned vendor, and mother reported that the Port Vila Handicraft Mamas Association deposited an amount of VT600, 000 to pay off the outstanding rent fees for the vendors before cyclone Pam. Therefore, using up almost all that they had left to rely on to confidently recover.
Apart from that each mother is responsible for paying their own permits and business licenses.
Furthermore, the vendors said their future is unsecured, because PVMC has not yet confirmed to them how long they can occupy the market house. They are worried that the Municipality can remove them from the current location anytime.
Can the government assist the market vendors? Of course they must. When?