BY SEIK PITOI
DESPITE ALL THE HYPE about liquefied natural gas and the mineral boom, times are still tough for most people in Papua New Guinea.
One can see from a stroll through any neighbourhood in the capital city how the informal sector plays its part in enhancing the livelihood of the people.
Most back or front yards of homes have little tables where families sell everything from buai (betel nut) and cigarettes to the more appetising fresh fruits, kumu (greens) and vegetables.
In fact, some of what you can get at most designated markets are just at your (or your neighbour’s) doorstep.
For many people, certain markets have become unsafe due to the unchallenged presence of criminals, thus other alternatives are sought.
Home front selling I suppose is permissible, but it is the ‘markets of convenience’ at certain city bus stops or shop fronts that have been a concern to many city residents.
Such unplanned and undesignated locations for buying and selling are usually unhygienic and hazardous to the health of residents. In fact, I have just heard that the our national capital district council has banned such markets of convenience, but whether people adhere to it is another thing altogether.
Taking a route 11 PMV bus from Tabari\4 Mile will lead you to the bus stop just outside the North Waigani Stop and Shop supermarket.
The bus will stop right at a thriving market place where stalls are lined up along the side of the road and the usual cheap Chinese products like perfumes, batteries, torches and other interesting items are sold.
The aroma of sizzling barbeques entice your tastebuds, not unlike the spicy scents of the famous hawker centres in Singapore where fried noodles and other delicacies fill the air.
Back at the North Waigani bus stop, though, you will notice 44-gallon drum ovens lined side by side as vendors fry lamb flaps, sausages, pork, kaukau (sweet potatoes) and banana to sell to their hungry customers.
The cheapest drinks are also to be found there as canned Coke sells for just K2 while the 500ml plastic bottles will go for K3. Other items on the menu usually include boiled eggs, scones and hot dogs. Then of course, there is the ever present buai, PNG’s very own dessert!
While the provision of such cheap food is welcome, a quick look around the vicinity is enough to make one sick.
The place is littered with rubbish like plastic bags, newspapers that were used to wrap food in, plastic bottles, decaying food and buai spittle.
The drain that runs behind the market also acts as a toilet, especially for small children, thus bringing a stench to the nostrils.