(Photo: CHINA DAILY)
On May 27, the Office of the National Steering Committee for Ethical and Cultural Progress dropped effective management of vendors and other roadside businesses in the city as a criteria for deciding if cities can be given the "civilized" title.
In less than a week, one city after another has introduced policies that will benefit vendors, rejuvenate the roadside economy and benefit a wide group of people.
The first to benefit are job-seekers. In Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, which is famous for its rich variety of snacks, the approval is said to have created up to 100,000 new jobs; and 100,000 households have found a source of a stable income.
Vendors do not have to spend on renting a place; all they need is 2 square meters of space by the roadside for two to three hours in the evening. And all their earnings go to their families, injecting new vitality into the whole economy. That does not mean regular shops will lose customers. The two kinds of businesses serve different types of consumers fulfilling different needs.
Office-goers too will benefit. Instead of having to queue up at a supermarket or rustle up something themselves, they can now snack from a vendor after a whole day in office. They can emerge from a subway station and grab a cake or get off a bus and buy some handmade ice cream.
Urban management officials, or chengguan, are also doing less stressful jobs now. Earlier, their job was to chase away vendors doing business illegally. They are now more accommodating, ensuring vendors dispose of garbage before shutting shop for the day and demarcating space for vendors in a way that there is no traffic congestion. All these require the local governments' wisdom. Time for them to be creative.