Wednesday, November 16, 2011
As we approach the end of count-down to the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Benin republic, it can easily be seen that Cotonou the commercial nerve-centre is becoming cleaner than ever before. This new look of a city that was almost hitherto assuming an epidemic level of filthiness is not, however, without collateral damage. Structures adjoining the pavement of most roads and boulevards across the city which serve as business centres or workshops for various types of economic activities have been completely pulled down by agents of the Municipal Council. Ironically, it is the same Council that collects various taxes and rates in respect of these business places on monthly basis, and one wonders how they hope to make up for the losses which happen to constitute a greater percentage of their revenue base. The effect of this demolition exercise is that more than 30% of businesses in the city have suddenly come to indefinite standstill with the attendant hardship it has brought to hundreds of thousands of breadwinners. The Pontif's visit is to last just four days, but the demolition exercise started since more than one month, and the big question is how much longer the victims will stay without regular income. The ripple effect is already being felt at the international markets and restaurants and bars which have suddenly started recorded low or zero customer traffic. Some desperate traders are said to be planning a mild display of placards during the reception of the august visitor in front of the national stadium to register their plight.Their argument is that since the theme of the Pope's visit is "RECONCILIATION," that government should also consider RECONSTRUCTION of their knocked-down structures or REHABILITATION of law-abiding business people.