By A. Jeyaraj
Most of the suburban markets around Ipoh like those in Pasir Pinji, Gunung Rapat, Buntong and others are more than 50 years old and some years ago MBI decided to rebuild the markets with the funding provided by the Federal Government.
I attended one of the meetings between MBI and the traders. MBI officers made presentation of their plan for the new market and the traders made their own presentation. The presentation of the traders was more meaningful and based on their experience. The traders emphasised that even relocating the market a few hundred metres away would drastically affect their business. With strong objections from the traders in the markets, the proposal was dropped. The state government had to return the RM36mil allocation to the Federal Government.
At that time I spoke to traders in Buntong market about plans for a new market. Except for a few traders the majority of them were not aware of this. They were also not in favour of relocating to another site.
The failure of the proposal was mainly due to communication problems. MBI engineers drew up their plan based on their theoretical knowledge. They did not discuss with the traders, who are the clients, about their requirements. The traders know best what they want, the size and layout of the stalls. Customers do not like split-level or multi-storey buildings. A lot of the traders and customers here are old, it is not convenient for them to climb stairs. People still complain of the split level in the main market in Ipoh.
Traders in wet markets are facing stiff competition from hypermarkets and superstores which are selling the same products. More and more people are buying things online. There are night markets near most of the housing estates which is convenient for the residents to do their shopping. Parking is a major problem in suburban markets.
Most of the traders in wet markets depend on regular customers and are afraid that if they relocate, they would lose them. MBI must try to rebuild the market in phases in the same location.
Tanjung Rambutan market is one example where the old market and food court has been upgraded successfully in the same location. I visited the market during mid-morning on a week day and there were very few shoppers. Though the market was completed a few years ago, the building still looks new. The space between the stalls is wide and easy to walk. The floor is comparatively clean and dry except the area where fish is sold which is rather wet. I saw a water hose lying on the floor.
In most markets customers complain about the hygiene of the food court, but here the place was dry and clean. Only a few stalls were open.
It is common to see vendors selling vegetables and other items outside the wet markets. When enforcement officers come, the illegal traders collect their stuff and run away. However, in this market there were no vendors selling vegetables outside the market. There were traders selling mostly second-hand goods along the road.
On my return journey from Tanjung Rambutan, I visited the Bercham market. Driving along the road in front of the market tests the skill of the driver. Cars and vans are parked all over the place. The market building looks new, but there are more stalls outside the building than inside.
Ipoh is progressing and many new buildings are coming up with modern concepts. The old wet markets are an eyesore and need to be upgraded.
I think the traders have now realised that the markets must be aesthetic to appeal to the customers who go there. The environment must be similar to that of other shopping complexes.
It is time for MBI to discuss with the traders again and convince them on the need to upgrade the markets and incorporate their requirements in the design. With the new government, it should to successful. To be competitive, traders need to be forthcoming with their suggestions and ideas to upgrade the market. It is their livelihood at stake after all.