Carvajal: De-‘Carbon’izing Carbon

Re-making Carbon into a world-class facility could make City Hall miss out on the essential mission of government. From the strong opposition posed by vendors it seems doubtful if the face-lift would improve the quality of life of the vendor- entrepreneurs who live off the sales of Carbon’s affordable supply of prime commodity products.

Carbon’s prices are the lowest in Metro Cebu for basically two reasons. One, ample supply which limits competition to price; and two, low overhead cost that allows vendors to compete on price and still make a fair profit. Face-lifting Carbon and making it world class would raise overhead cost and bring down supply.

Rent will go up and so would personal expenses like clothes and shoes. (You cannot sell or buy in a world-class facility wearing rubber sandals and sandos). Supply will go down as producers and vendors will look for cheaper and more informal venues for selling their products.

Carbon market does not need to be a world-class facility to serve its purpose. In fact, it is already serving its purpose on behalf of producers and vendors that thrive in its unique business culture.

I would even venture to say that it will cease to serve its purpose if it is turned into a world class facility. Carbon’s unique “inato” culture will fade away as it becomes another convenience store (and airport terminal?) for rich locals and tourists.

Carbon market is already a tourist spot because of this “inato” culture that caters to small people who need every centavo they can shave off their purchases, folks who like doing things simply and informally.

To my mind, Carbon Market only needs two basic changes. One is to make it clean, sanitary, and orderly. Two, and more importantly, it should be managed and run by a federation or by a cooperative of vendor associations.

Knowing big business, vendors will lose if they simply oppose (the devil in) some details of the project in court. They have to dare propose extra judicially a developmental but viable alternative like a counter-offer to the City in terms of what would be the City’s percentage share of Carbon’s revenues.

City Hall might want to give this alternative some serious thought. The City might earn less but it will be true to its mission of improving the quality of life of all but especially the least of its citizens. Total human development not just business development is what government is about.

Insane? Maybe, but why not? This proposal might not make Carbon a world-class market. But it will surely make vendors self-reliant for their future progress. It will also surely make Cebu City officials world-class government executives. Most important of all, Carbon will still be Carbon.