By Karine Kalantarian
Authorities in Yerevan began on Friday enforcing a fresh ban on street trade in agricultural produce and other foodstuffs which is seen as failing to meeting basic sanitary standards.
Similar bans imposed by the city authorities in the past proved short-lived and ineffective. Street vendors, most of them eking out a modest living, could still be seen in some of the city’s busiest areas throughout the day.
“It is impossible to immediately uproot the street trade that has existed for the last 15 years. But we must try to gradually address this problem,” Yerevan’s Deputy Mayor Arman Sahakian told RFE/RL.
Sahakian said police and district administrations have been instructed to free all city sidewalks from illegal traders. But he admitted that many of them have no other source of income.
“It is also a social problem for some families. We must try to offer them alternatives,” he said.
One of those alternatives is to get the traders to move to the city’s half-empty indoors markets. The municipality is also considering building special open-air markets for them.
But street vendors say that they are too poor to pay prohibitive fees charges by the owners of those markets. “How are we to earn a living? They don’t even pay our pensions on time,” said an angry elderly woman.
“Go and sell it in the market. Nobody prevents you from doing that,” countered a passer-by. She argued that food sold on the streets is dangerous for health.
But other city residents were more sympathetic to the traders’ cause. “They should have arranged something for traders in advance,” said one woman. “They had better tax the oligarchs so that these women don’t have to sell things here.”