Last week on this newscast, you saw market vendors going ballistic on the city council after they heard the proposal that the council wants to increase their rental fees. It has become necessary because the re-modeled Queen Square market was not finished on time. The council has thus had to extend its arrangement with the owner of the Pound Yard space which is hosting the temporary market. The owner, Arun Hotchandani has stipulated a sharply increased rental fee, and the proposal is that some of that will have to be passed unto the vendors.
Today - representatives of the Social Investment Fund - which has been blamed for the delay in completion of the market went to the market to explain the position to the vendors. 7news was there.
Mike Hernandez, Social Investment Fund
"Today basically we want to tell them what actually is going to happen as part of the second phase."
The Group from the social investment fund met stony faces at the Queen Square market this morning where the vendors didn't want to hear what they had to say.
"It is highly possible that the market won't finish this year. One reason is that we are very close to the hurricane season and we are almost in the rainy season. That would slow down the construction of that market a lot."
"To say that in the next 4 months that he can complete the balance of stalls plus complete what is there we think it's realistic. Yes we agree that rain is something that we cannot really predict, indeed if a hurricane comes - an act of God - that is something that is outside our control."
"Why didn't they build a complete market? So that whenever we get into the market we don't have to deal with rain or the sun? Why is it just pieces again? When it rains this whole place will flood again."
"The reason it couldn't be all closed up was because the Public Health Department advised that we really needed the air to flow through there, so that the fruits could last longer and that we have proper ventilation for everyone comfort as well. If everything was closed up that would have contributed more to heat and wastage of the produce."
And despite the misunderstandings and misgivings - SIF remains on message and the project is on target, they say
"What the residents are going to get at the end of the day when this project is finished is actually a first class market. I do know that there have been some concerns especially with the delay of the project, but as I said that has been completely out of our control. We are here to tell them that the project actually is going to start on the first of June and it will run for the next 3 to 4 months. The market will be completed by September of this year."
"How much, what percentage of the completion are we at right now?"
"We are almost I would say about 50-60 percent because the remaining portion is going to be mostly about finishing the aesthetics of the area."
So what you see here is basically the market - which was another sore point for the vendors who expected a two storey building.
But time and increased rental charges is what's bothering them the most
"it's not on schedule Mr. Hernandez."
"It's a process that we have no control of."
Alfonso Noble, Editor Guardian newspaper
"Have you guys ran out of money? Has the first phase ran out of money?"
"It has not run out of money. The first phase was $614,000.00 there about. The second phase is something around $743,000.00."
"Shouldn't they have flowed seamlessly one in to the other without having this interregnum?"
"Under ideal circumstances, yes. That is what should have happened. As I said it has been absolutely out of our control."
"Whose control is it?"
"As I said it's a process, its CDB. We have to abide by the guidance of CDB."
"Is the Social Investment Fund is having an adverse social impact on the vendors of this market?"
"Well if you want to call it that way, what can I say, all I can say is that we are doing what is actually within our control."
"Have you all explained to CDB: 'listen this is not something we can wait on, we needed this last month.'"
"This is precisely, Jules, why we are here. As I said the process is sometimes very bureaucratic, very tedious sometimes, I know people get frustrated. I must admit even us at SIF get very frustrated. I do understand the situation for the vendors. Actually it was this week when we had the visit of a key official of CDB that we managed to really say to them; look this can't continue like this. This is what we have been saying to them all along. So thank God this thing has been approved and now it has paved the way for us to continue with the project."
So four months is what they are looking at.
"It will end in September. What you are going to get is a first class market for Belize City for which everyone are going to be proud of including the vendors who are actually the stake holders."
The Social Investment fund is required by law to hold such meetings.
The City Council met in caucus this evening to decide what if any additional fee it will affix on vendors for use of the market space during the extension period.