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SW China’s Chengdu boosts consumption, employment with flexible city management measures

As noon approached on May 30, Kuixinglou Street, a popular food street in Chengdu, capital of Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, gradually got busy.

People who came to look for a nice meal and tourists with luggage strolled along the street stopped from time to time in front of restaurants and shops to check their daily specials.

The street, which was hit hard by the COVID-19 epidemic, has been brought back to life by shouts of shop owners as well as laughter and cheerful talks.

“Would you prefer to eat in or outside the dining hall?” He Xu, owner of a restaurant, greeted customers at the door with a menu in his hand.

The restaurant set six simple tables near the sidewalk, which was newly allowed by the local government in a bid to help business owners quickly restore business, said He, who wore a face mask and an apron, standing at the door of the restaurant to invite passersby to eat in the place.

According to requirements for epidemic prevention and control, diners must keep a safe distance from each other, and the occupancy rate of the restaurant shall not exceed 50 percent, He noted.

“We reopened on March 9, and our daily turnover only stood between 2,000 (about $281) and 3,000 yuan (about $423) during the first several days, which was less than one ninth of our previous daily business volume before the epidemic. Now the figure has finally reached two thirds of what we had before,” He said.

A malatang (similar to hot pot) restaurant located a few steps away from He’s restaurant is doing well, too. It just added 15 more tables to its outdoor dining area.

“We called 15 of our staff members back to help, which is a win-win result, as they also get to earn income again,” said the owner of the restaurant.

In an effort to boost economy, Chengdu started to allow shop owners, street vendors, and shopping malls to set up temporary roadside stalls, booths, and business areas to enhance sales on the premise that firefighting access and blind sidewalks are not occupied and no one’s interests and rights are violated.

Following the principle of flexible management under prudent and tolerant supervision, Chengdu makes education and persuasion the main measure to deal with minor infractions.

These policies and measures have led to significantly positive effects on stimulating consumption and have been widely welcomed.

Since epidemic prevention and control measures to contain COVID-19 became normalized, city management bureau of Wuhou district set up 20 shared roadside stalls between subway entrance and business district in Cujin subdistrict, and offered the stalls to residents who need them.

Under a timeshare model, each stall operator can use their respective spot at a different time of the day.

The bureau has created a detailed mechanism for the use of these roadside stalls. The mechanism, which specifies access and exit rules for stall operators, gives preference to impoverished households in granting access to the stalls and would punish those who disobey relevant rules and regulations.

Stall operators are required to carry with them their own trash can and clean up their respective spot after the end of business every day. Besides, all operators are not allowed to use loudspeaker or any other tools that could disturb residents living nearby.

Ran Yifu, a post-70s vendor from Ziyang, Sichuan province, shares a stall with Li Jian, a post-80s man from Jintang county of Chengdu.

Ran sells breakfast at the stall from 7:00 am to 11:00 am, and Li uses the spot to sell snacks after 11:00 am every day.

When time draws near 11:00 am, Ran packs up the plastic mat on the ground and cleans up the space before handing it over to Li.

“I sell more than 100 Gongpobing (a traditional pastry) and dozens of steamed dumplings every day, which means several hundred yuan of income for me,” Ran said.

Li used to work as a security guard in Chengdu Hi-tech Industrial Development Zone. He lost his job because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Living costs for my family of five are quite a lot of money every month, so I applied for the access to the stall immediately after I heard of the opportunity. I use the stall to sell roast squid,” explained Li, while laying the ground mat he brought and preparing tableware, getting ready to receive customers.

“I have just started the business a week ago. I make over 300 yuan ($42) every day. Since I started to have stable income, I’ve been able to sleep tight at night,” Li said.

Chengdu had set up 2,230 temporary roadside stalls, booths, and business areas, allowed 17,147 temporary operation spots of shop owners and shopping malls, and permitted 20,130 mobile stalls and booths run by street vendors as of May 28.

The efforts had provided jobs for more than 100,000 people.

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