The movement control order implemented in light of Covid-19 has provided local authorities with the rare opportunity to demarcate, rearrange or relocate open-air markets.
These include morning markets, night markets and Ramadan bazaars.
Before this, the local authorities could do little to persuade these traders to move as they had the support of their associations and politicians.
In the past, several local authorities tried to relocate markets but they had little to no success.
They chose to ignore the problem as they did not want to put livelihoods at risk nor lose the support of these groups.
Since March 18, most traders were unable to do business because of the MCO and this opened the door for local authorities to act before restrictions were eased and regular trading and economic activities returned.
Many of these open-air markets infringe on the rights of others, especially residents and businesses, as traders would block roads, cause traffic congestion, restrict access to licensed businesses and bring a host of other problems.
These markets have also created an influx of foreign traders.
All kinds of waste would be dumped into nearby drains or simply left at the site.
Littering is another issue that needs to be addressed.
The areas around these sites could become a health hazard as the smell of rotting waste attracts pests like rodents.
These open-air markets have become more of a nuisance than a convenience.
The time has come for the local authorities to reassess the role of open-air markets or reduce the need for them.
They should also ensure that cleanliness is maintained and this will probably be more manageable if they can control the number of traders and sites.
A proper licensing or permit system needs to be implemented to ensure that these markets are properly managed.
Some of the practices, such as displaying a cow, bull or goat’s severed head, needs to be banned.
The local authorities need to come up with guidelines initiated by the Housing and Local Government Ministry to ensure that the open-air markets function properly without inconveniencing the public.