Yan­gon cracks down on il­le­gal rental of street space to ven­dors

Of­fi­cials have put up dozens of down­town sign­boards an­nounc­ing that street-side space is not a com­mod­ity, while the city’s mayor says he will take ac­tion against any­one who un­law­fully taxes ven­dors.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - za­yarlinn@mm­times.com ZAY YAR LINN – Trans­la­tion by San Layy

YAN­GON au­thor­i­ties put up dozens of sign­boards in the city’s six down­town townships ear­lier this week, ban­ning a well-es­tab­lished and lu­cra­tive trade in pave­ment space, and warn­ing against the in­for­mal tax­a­tion of street ven­dors.

For many years, pave­ments in Yan­gon’s down­town area – and to a lesser ex­tent the en­tire city – have been viewed as a com­mod­ity to be traded be­tween street ven­dors and home own­ers, with some prime spots sell­ing for up to K1 mil­lion.

On Au­gust 14, Yan­gon Mayor U Maung Maung Soe met with ven­dors to learn more about unofficial tax col­lec­tion and the trade in street space, ac­cord­ing to a post on his Face­book page.

He said he would cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment for ven­dors to sell freely, and would take ac­tion against any­one who took ad­van­tage of them.

Shortly af­ter­ward, on Au­gust 16, Yan­gon City De­vel­op­ment Com­mit­tee put up more than 200 red sign­boards on main roads in the six down­town townships. They state that roads and pave­ments are pub­lic space, and clar­ify that nobody has a right to own them or to rent them to ven­dors.

Signs will soon also be put up along busy roads in other townships, U Maung Maung Zaw, head of YCDC’s ad­min­is­tra­tion depart­ment, told The Myanmar Times.

“Nobody is al­lowed to sell or rent pub­lic land. We need to let ev­ery­body know that this is il­le­gal. Peo­ple are mak­ing money by pre­tend­ing to own space on the pave­ments and we are wor­ried that they are tak­ing ad­van­tage of ven­dors,” he said. “We have not taken any ac­tion; the an­nounce­ments are sim­ply in­tended to clar­ify and con­trol the sit­u­a­tion.”

Un­der mu­nic­i­pal law, street sell­ing is forbidden, he said. Nobody is al­lowed to dis­play prod­ucts for sale or block a street with­out the per­mis­sion of the com­mit­tee. How­ever, the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment al­lowed ven­dors to sell along the main roads be­tween 3pm and 8pm.

U Maung Maung Zaw said YCDC un­der­stands that ven­dors need to make a liv­ing, and will con­tinue to al­low peo­ple to freely sell their goods be­tween these hours each day, un­til new mar­kets can be built.

The trade in street space be­gan in 1999 when YCDC, un­der the State Peace and De­vel­op­ment Coun­cil, is­sued iden­tity cards to ven­dors, to bring some or­der to street-side sales and make it eas­ier to col­lect taxes. Each card al­lowed its holder to trade in a cer­tain town­ship.

This card and tax­a­tion sys­tem con­tin­ued un­til U Thein Sein’s gov­ern­ment took power, when YCDC of­fi­cially stopped col­lect­ing taxes from ven­dors.

How­ever, many card­hold­ers had al­ready staked out ter­ri­tory, which they sold or rented to other street sell­ers, for as much as K5 mil­lion for a prime spot.

Other peo­ple, claim­ing to be of­fi­cials, also col­lected taxes, though they stopped around the time that the Na­tional League for Democ­ra­cyled gov­ern­ment took power ear­lier this year, ven­dors told The Myanmar Times.

“Peo­ple who were not wear­ing uni­forms used to col­lect taxes of around K500 ev­ery three days, but they have not come for a few months,” said Ko Aung Naing, who sells cloth­ing and shoes on Anawrahta Road.

“Un­til now, it cost be­tween K300,000 and K500,000 to buy the right to trade in a good place. I am very pleased that YCDC has put up these new signs.”

The price of rent­ing a space is high­est in Latha and Lan­madaw townships, where the street mar­kets are most con­cen­trated, said Daw Sein Myint, who sells fruit on Ma­ha­ban­doola Road in Lan­madaw.

“I bought this place for K500,000 around three years ago. Peo­ple used to col­lect taxes ev­ery few days, but did not give us a re­ceipt. They have not come dur­ing the past week,” she said.

Other ven­dors, who are pay­ing rent to house own­ers, say that fight­ing fre­quently breaks out over the right to sell.

“I have been sell­ing here for five years through an agree­ment with a lo­cal house owner. I have to give them money and I pick up all my rub­bish. Peo­ple from YCDC also col­lect tax, though they have not col­lected it re­cently,” said U Tin Myint who sells snacks near to Pan­so­dan bus stop on Anawrahta Road in Pazun­daung town­ship.

“I have heard that some peo­ple are pay­ing up to K1 mil­lion to sell their wares in a good place. But the street be­longs to ev­ery­body – why should we have to pay to use it?”

‘Peo­ple who were not wear­ing uni­form used to col­lect taxes of around K500 ev­ery three days.’ Ko Aung Naing Cloth­ing and shoes seller

Photo: EPA

A ven­dor counts ban­knotes at her street stall in Yan­gon.

Photo: Aung Htay Hlaing

A sign warns against un­li­censed street sell­ing on Sule Pagoda Road.

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