The Irrawaddy

Rangoon Municipality Plan to Move Street Vendors into Multi-Storey Markets

Street vendors sell goods on Maha Bandoola Street in downtown Rangoon’s Latha Township. (Photo: Ko Soe / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — Rangoon municipality officials said they are working on a plan to turn the city’s markets into multi-storey buildings. They hope the plan would create more space in the markets, so that street vendors can be moved indoors and off the city’s busy pavements.

Sithu Lwin, deputy head of the markets department of the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC), said a plan had been proposed to Rangoon Division parliament to turn market buildings, such as Dawbon Market in Dawbon Township and Padamya Market in Shwepyitha Township, into high-rise buildings.

“Then we’ll divide the [new] spaces among the original shopkeepers [of the market]. And we plan to put the street vendors at the top levels,” he said, adding, “We’ve proposed the budget for the plan to [Rangoon] Division parliament to expand the existing markets in order to provide space for street vendors.”

Sithu Lwin was reluctant to discuss details of the proposal. He was unable to explain what the costs of the plan would be, who would finance it, or how the often poor vendors could afford to rent the newly created market spaces.

“We still can’t expose the details of the plan because I’m afraid more vendors will come onto streets if we do it now,” he said, adding that the plan could be approved for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, which starts in May.

Thousands of hawkers and street stalls have long crowded the pavements in Rangoon’s old downtown area, setting up shop on streets such as Maha Bandoola, Shwebontha, Sule Pagoda Road, Merchant and Anawratha.

YCDC officially allows the vendors to set up stalls from 3 pm to 8 pm and Rangoon municipal laws state that it is illegal to sell goods on the roadside outside of these hours, but the sellers can be found on the pavements for much of the day.

Vendors said that as long as they regularly paid local authorities they could sell their wares. “We are not allowed to sell things by the roadside [for the whole day], but we have an understanding [with officials]. We have to pay 2,000 or 2,500 kyats [US$2-2.50] per week,” said a woman running a small roadside teashop in Botataung Township.

The numerous street side businesses add to the sense of congestion in downtown, which has suffered from worsening traffic jams following a sharp increase in sales of motorized vehicles in Burma in recent years.

Rangoon authorities, acting on advice from Japanese experts, responded to the increase in traffic by halving the city’s colonial-era wide pavements and broadening roads, further reducing the space for vendors and pedestrians, often pushing them onto the streets.

Rangoon resident Myo Naing said he felt that the street vendors were contributing to the city’s congestion problems that affect both pedestrians and cars, but added that any measures to deal with the problem should not hurt the incomes of the poor vendors.

“I don’t want them [vendors] to sell things on crowded streets. But then, if they are banned, it would affect their livelihoods. They should be given spaces at small lanes,” he suggested.