Street vendors are vital for tourism-friendly countries
The majority of population in almost all developing countries is from middle and lower middle class.Even in developed countries the segment of this population hasa very important role in all spheres of life. The most influential role is as a voter for winners and losers in all types of government formation systems. In the economic perspective, most of them have small businessessuch as manufacturing, supplying of goods, handicrafts, selling fruits, vegetables, refreshments, and foods and beverage, thus contribute in the economic growth.
These small vendors have a very important role in providing many basic goods and services to domestic consumers. In tourism-friendly countries a majority of tourists prefer to purchase goods and services from small vendors who also promote local handicrafts and souvenirs of theircountries.They generate foreign exchange from tourists, which directly benefitstheir families.
Local and international tourists can find similar branded goods all over the world in upscale shopping malls,but locally made goods and handicrafts are usually different from area to area. Local goods are a main attraction for tourists. Governments in tourist countries provide different types of facilities including subsidies in terms of free electricity or some other relevant facilities.
Middlemen or contractors do not support them; local area law enforcement agencies create problems for them; and street criminals are also a risk for them
In some tourism-friendly countries, government provides specially dedicated places to street vendors, especially for night shopping markets at public places. In the Gulf countries these markets are known as night souq, and in the Far Eastern countries as pasar malam.
Buyers, mainly tourists, utilise their evening time and purchase different types of locally made products. In this way local products and handicrafts are promoted. Local communities generate business that also contributes to the GDP. Street vendors run their businesses without any negative intervention from government departments and agencies.
Unfortunately, in Pakistan, the situation is quite different. Business of poor street vendors is very difficultcompared to other countries. Poor vendors totally dependon their small street businesses; in some cases, they do not even earn or save enough to enable them to purchasebasic food items for their dependents.They have different types of threats. Middlemen or contractors do not support them; local area law enforcement agencies create problems for them;and street criminals are also a risk for them. Relevant authorities do not allow them to stay,display and do businessin one place, so they always feel insecure and keep moving to find customers. These are some major problems that discourage poor Pakistanis to earn and live their lives without much trouble.
Street vendors, even in tourist destination points, have similar problems.Poor street vendors cannot concentrate on their business because of these issues. Touristsare also unable to find good quality products on economical rates, and in some areas, they cannot even find drinking water and food items. Mostly, street business communities provide basic food and drinks to touristsin hilly and hard areas.
To encourage and organise street vendors in all major cities of Pakistan, government should arrange to provide them dedicated spacesin public places where they can display and sell their products. All tourist destination sites should have street vendors. For this purpose, government can introduce an incentive package with some basic facilities, including electricity, drinking water, sitting arrangements. Such a plan can help poor street vendors and also generate income at individual and national level as well.
To organise the street business community government can also offer one-window easy registration with a nominal fee or with some subsidies at district level to attract street vendors. Pakistan has a very high ratio of smartphone users; relevant departments can develop and promote a mobile app to get them registered with a few easy steps. Government can introduce attractive packages for their registration with offers of free space, a single light anddrinking water on sites, and some more exemptions for female street vendors. This can also bring more housewives into business activities. The ratio of working-class population can be increased in this way.
As government is focusedon attracting more tourists and is expecting a high turnover in the coming seasons, it needs to provide basic facilities at all tourist destinations. Public sector has very limited resources, and it is not possible to provide all basic facilities. If that is done, street vendors and small business community can play a vital role in the economic growth of the country. Government just needs to arrange free awareness and capacity building sessions to documented and registered street vendors. This step will enable street vendors to speak and deal with foreign tourists.
The writer is associated with Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI)
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