It's been nearly a month now since the new mayor of Yerevan and former head of ArmRosGazprom Karen Karapetian, imposed a ban on selling produce and goods on the street. The ban effectively likely put thousands of people out of work overnight. Not even fruit stand owners can display their merchandise in front along the sidewalk.
The ban also applies to anyone selling anything, from sunflower seeds to chewing gum (although one rather intimidating old man who hangs out near the Opera House is still peddling, ironically where there's an active police presence). The reason of the ban was supposedly to clean up Yerevan's streets. Now they are barren and whatever lively character the city had has been erased. It seems surreal.
The vendors always seemed to have been respectful to pedestrians, keeping out of the way of foot traffic, and they generally cleaned up after themselves. In spots where people sell fruits and vegetables for instance I have never seen even one stray piece of parsley at the end of the day lying on the sidewalk. People who defied the ban were allegedly shooed away by police.
A couple of days ago on my street I saw a few vendors secretly selling their usual merchandise from oversized reinforced nylon bags that they held in hand. Yesterday they disappeared again.
One of the mayor's closest advisors should have talked him out of imposing this heartless, ill-conceived citywide ban. It simply isn't fair to force so many people out of business, all of whom make a modest, not to mention honest living
. They all have regular customers because they offer high quality produce and reasonable prices, certainly cheaper than in the markets. Instead the mayor should crack down on the drug dealers peddling their junk to kids in the neighborhood -- I personally saw a deal go down last summer from my balcony.
A couple of weeks ago hundreds of vendors assembled in front of Yerevan City Hall in protest to the ban, but as far as I know their complaints were heard only for a single day. Had they kept going back perhaps something would have changed, it's hard to tell. But if they had the backing of Yerevan citizens chances are the ban would have been overturned. That didn't happen due to persistent inaction. In the meantime, the apathetic, self-destructive mentality that "the country's not a country" remains the general public's conviction. Gee, I wonder why?
Labels: Economy, Social and Cultural