[www.inewsguyana.com] – The Berbice Chambers is calling for a review of the agreement with the Berbice Bridge Company Inc during a meeting with Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson and Vice President and Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan.
The meeting with representatives from the Upper Corentyne Chambers of Commerce & Industry (UCCCI); West Berbice Chamber of Industry & Commerce (WBCIC); Central Corentyne Chamber of Commerce (CCCC) and Berbice Chamber of Commerce and Development Association (BCC&DA) provided the opportunity for the government to inform businesses in the Region on the status of negotiations with the Berbice Bridge Company Incorporated (BBCI) and the intended implementation of water taxis.
According to the Government Information Agency (GINA), Minister Patterson informed the Chambers that the government made approaches to the Management of the BBCI, to reduce the tolls by $300 for motor vehicles, and ten percent on other vehicles, in lieu of a subsidy. The subsidy was planned to increase yearly, as it was the Administration’s intention to reduce the tolls at the bridge every year bringing it to an acceptable rate for commuters.
“Today the discussion is not moving apace, because the BBCI put up a position that there were other issues they want discussed first, such as an extension of the concession period, fee increase and so on,” Patterson told the representatives of the Chambers.
He added that although the Administration indicated its willingness to pursue talks on the matters of concern to BBCI, the company continues to hold the commuters to ransom.
During the interaction, members of the Chambers of Commerce revealed that businesses moving large goods and lumber were affected by an unfair implementation of charges by the Bridge Company. Patterson posited that such a practice does not augur well for business.
Additionally, a faulty scale saw persons paying in excess of US$300 to ship goods from Crabwood Creek to Georgetown. This increased transportation costs thereby causing the businesses to lose their competitive edge.
Representatives from the Berbice Chambers of Commerce recommended that the government scrutinize the entire agreement with a view to make necessary amendments. Further, tolls should be reduced to $1500 for motor cars.
Patterson indicated that amending the contract would mean that government would have to exercise its power on the Bridge Company, a thing that the Administration is not keen on, as it sends the wrong impression to potential investors.
“We intend to stand on the agreement made, and work within its confines. Also, to further negotiations with management (of the Bridge), to arrive an agreement,” Patterson told the Chambers.
Other recommendations made by the Chambers of Commerce are to extend the concession offered for the elderly and school children to include nurses and teachers, to implement a shuttle bus service system, and to review the financial model of the agreement to ascertain whether or not it is feasible to increase the concessionary period and simultaneously reduce the tolls.
The meeting ended in consensus on the implementation of the water-taxi service. Minister Patterson indicated that the implementation is an opportunity for entrepreneurs in the area to earn a living. He added that while he can utilize available vessels under his command, he prefers the entrepreneurs from Regions Five and Six to provide the service.