WHEN Covid-19 struck, many people were badly affected economically, prompting the government to assist them through various initiatives.
While some proposals have been well received upon implementation, a few have not been welcomed by all.
One such proposal is the declaration of free trading area in the Federal Territories through the issuance of free temporary licence to petty traders and hawkers, which allows them to do business at any suitable location.
Since Nov 15, Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) is giving permission to traders to operate their stalls or small businesses around the city, including locations that were previously off-limits.
Traders are required to apply for the six-month temporary licence via DBKL’s website.
The decision is intended to help the poor earn an income so they can take care of their families and pay their bills.
Federal Territories Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa had said, “As long as the stalls are not a public nuisance and do not obstruct traffic, they should be allowed.”
However, the decision has drawn flak from Kuala Lumpur residents due to traffic and hygiene concerns.
While some applaud the move as a lifeline for those struggling to make ends meet amid the worsening economy, others want the Federal Territories Ministry to beef up enforcement and set detailed regulations to prevent abuse.
Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh said several traders had complained that middlemen were collecting an agent fee from them to operate.
“People are confused and there are complaints that these agents are collecting as much as RM2,000 for the licence.
“I urge traders to contact DBKL directly for the licence as it is issued free of charge under the programme, ” she said.
DBKL said in a statement that no agent had been appointed to collect a fee and that traders should deal directly with the local authority.
It said the types of trade allowed included the sale of food and beverages, dry goods, fruits and poultry.
“Cooking activities are allowed on a small scale and limited to only one stove, such as banana fritters, keropok lekor and burgers, ” it said.
The statement added that the operating hours for such businesses would be 7am-11am, 11am-3pm, 3pm-7pm, and 7pm-10pm.
Each stall would be allowed to use a folding table and a makeshift tent measuring 8sq ft.
“Stall owners cannot put out tables and chairs for customers, and only takeaway is allowed, ” said DBKL, adding that all equipment must be removed after business hours.
Clear guidelines needed
Among those who welcome the move is PPR Intan Baiduri Kepong Residents Association committee member Khairul Anuwar Yusoff.
However, he said DBKL needed to step up its enforcement to ensure the new policy was not abused.
“They must ensure that the licence holders do not rent out their stalls to a third party or foreigners, ” he said.
Khairul also called on the ministry to clarify the permitted locations for petty traders and hawkers.
“We don’t want complaints by residents about stalls being set up close to their houses, ” he added.
Kepong community service centre head Yee Poh Ping said specific locations should be identified by DBKL to ensure that stalls were not scattered all around the city.
“There should be five or six stalls in each location and they must be located away from residential areas.
“It will be easier for DBKL to monitor the stalls if they operate in designated locations, ” he pointed out.
Yee said stall owners should not be allowed to build permanent structures.
“No stalls should be allowed on parking bays as this would create congestion.
“DBKL must ensure stall owners take every step to maintain cleanliness and discard waste responsibly, ” he added.
Meanwhile, MCA DBKL Affairs Bureau chief Banie Chin said more details needed to be ironed out.
“Shopowners are concerned that if stalls start cropping up near their premises, it will affect their business, especially those located in front of their shops, ” he said, adding that they were paying high rental and were concerned that these temporary traders would adversely affect their business.
Chin said an in-depth study on the policy was needed, such as whether there were enough enforcement officers to monitor the traders or if they would be allowed to continue business after the six-month period.
Taman Desa Residents Association president Wong Chan Choy agreed that DBKL should provide designated sites for the petty traders and hawkers.
“They should not be allowed to operate by the roadside as it would cause traffic congestion when customers stop their vehicles and wait for their orders.”
He said specific guidelines on the type of businesses allowed were needed to avoid confusion.
“I suggest that the ministry consult traders and residents associations in the city as they understand the challenges in their respective areas.
“The guidelines must also indicate if the businesses would be required to move after the temporary licence period, ” he said.
Wong also raised concerns about the financial viability of existing shops and eateries with increased competition from the temporary traders.
“Many of these premises are already struggling to pay rental, tax and salaries, ” he said.
Taman Tun Dr Ismail Residents Association chairman Hafiz Abu Bakar questioned whether DBKL would ensure cleanliness and smooth traffic flow at these temporary trading sites.
“Will there be a limit to the number of temporary licences issued?
“Does DBKL have enough manpower for enforcement?
“If DBKL insists on issuing this licence, then it must ensure that the rules are strictly adhered to, ” he said.
Hafiz also questioned if the move was necessary in the first place as small businesses operating from homes had already been seeing steady growth during the movement control order period.
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