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Humane, flexible urban policies saving hawkers in Chengdu

By WANG YIQING | China Daily | Updated: 2020-05-21 08:04

A worker works at a workshop of Heilongjiang Kingdom Enterprise Co, Ltd in Qinggang county, Northeast China's Heilongjiang province, April 16, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

Beginning March, the Chengdu city government has tried to restart the economy that has been affected by the novel coronavirus outbreak. Vendors are normally not allowed to sell their wares on the streets as the authorities want the city to stay clean.

However, the authorities in Chengdu have relaxed the norms, allowing street vendors to temporarily do business on the streets, so long as they spare the sidewalks for firefighters and the physically challenged.

The authorities are also organizing night fairs for the vendors on the condition that they follow epidemic prevention and control measures-wearing masks and maintaining social distancing-and keep the public space clean.

Such flexible measures are not only injecting vitality into the city's economy, but also promoting employment.

According to the government, over a period of two months, the city has established 1,595 vendor booths, allowed 18,260 shops or restaurants to come up beside streets, and permitted 16,384 vendors to do business.

Most first-and second-tier cities in China prohibit vendors from doing business. But the novel coronavirus outbreak has created great challenges for the economy, and reviving the economy and solving the unemployment problem are two of the priorities for local governments.

The pandemic has caused great losses to businesses in the catering and retail industry, which urgently need to resume their operation. But even as the outbreak has largely been controlled in the country, people's consumption habits have changed drastically.

They now prefer shopping outdoors, as they fear there is greater chance of infection in enclosed spaces. With the pandemic increasing the unemployment rate, local governments need to adjust their practices to adapt to the new circumstances.

Chengdu's innovative urban management measures are at least providing temporary public places for small businesses in the catering and retail industry to survive.

It is helping create jobs, and helping maintain social harmony.

It shows how humane and flexible urban management policies help sustain people's livelihoods during a special period, something that can be promoted in other major cities.

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