More than a decade after a Public Private Partnership (PPP) agreement allowed for the construction of the Berbice Bridge; the company facing “bankruptcy” is calling on the Government to approve their request for a hike in toll for commuters.
This is according to the Chairman of the Company, Dr Surendra Persaud, who noted that the entity is presently facing $2.8B in losses.
These losses, he noted, have even impacted the company’s ability to service the 39 pontoons under the bridge.
“These accumulated losses and shortfall of cash flow have compromised the bridge company’s obligation to efficiently operate and maintain the bridge, including the timely servicing of its pontoons under the bridge, and have resulted in the company defaulting on its obligations to investors,” he told media operatives during a press conference on Tuesday.
Persaud is also Chairman of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), which owns shares in the company.
He asserted that investments by other private investors have reduced, which could contribute in the Private Sector misplacing assurance in Government.
According to Persaud, they have had several engagements with Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson.
He noted that following a previous engagement, Patterson had informed them that a maintenance proposal would be taken to cabinet.
According to the Chairman, they were subsequently informed that it was not approved.
In fact, the company applied for a toll adjustment on three occasions; twice in 2015 and once in 2016, to no avail.
The Berbice Bridge Company is seeking to raise its tolls for cars from $2200 to $8040; minibuses from $2200 to $8040; pickups from $4000 to $14,600; 4WD from $4000 to $14,600; small trucks from $4000 to $14,600; medium trucks from $7600 to $27,720; large trucks from $13,600 to $49,600; articulated trucks from $32,000 to $116,680 and boats from $110,000 to $401,040.
The company says it is seeking increases in tolls as per the adjustment formula set out by the agreement with the government.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure in a statement on the issue said that government is not contemplating any increases to the Berbice Bridge toll.
“Government stands by its decision to reduce tolls in fulfilling a campaign commitment, and will continue to work with the Berbice Bridge Company in ensuring that the Bridge is sufficiently maintained and safe for vehicular and marine use.
“Further government notes that the Bridge Agreement places obligations on all parties, which include scheduled maintenance and associated upgrades. Any request for toll increases must take into consideration a wide array of factors and cannot solely be on the basis of recouping operational costs and profits on dividend” the Ministry said.