By Fareeza Haniff
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Minister of State, Joseph Harmon is of the view that the contract of the Berbice River Bridge is more favourable and friendly to some of the investors than the country at large.
He told reporters on Friday, September 04, shortly after his post Cabinet media briefing that the contract was not done in a transparent process since it was never made public and was never subject to any public debate or involvement.
The Minister’s comments come at a time when there is an impasse between the APNU+AFC government and the officials of the Bridge Company, who have since refused to implement the government’s proposed reduction in the toll.
“So the terms of that contract itself, when you look at it, sometimes you find that the terms and conditions are not favourable to the country at large. It is very friendly, very favourable to some of the investors. I suppose at that time, different considerations were exercised in trying to find persons who could invest in the Bridge itself,” Harmon said.
He further explained that the contract does not take into account the travelling population.
“But certainly, the conditions as I see it…are super favourable to the investors and it really does not take into account enough, the travelling public and the institutional investors such as the National Insurance Scheme.”
“Those investments I believe are not sufficiently protected under this arrangement and that the NIS stand to be the company or the entity most affected by any meltdown in this regard.”
The government has since decided to introduce a River Taxi Service for residents on the West and East Bank of Berbice. Government had announced a reduced toll structure which was slated to take effect on September 01, but the officials from the Company refused to implement it on the grounds that millions of dollars will be lost to investors and government did not consult with them.
The administration is providing a monthly subsidy to the Company to compensate for the loss, but this too was refused, resulting in a stalemate between the two sides.
Finance Minister, Winston Jordan had told the National Assembly that the toll for passenger cars and buses will be reduced from $2,200 to $1,900, a 13.6 percent decline.
At the same time, the toll for all other types of vehicles will be reduced by 10 percent. The Finance Minister revealed that over 150,000 Guyanese live within Regions 5 and 6 and traverse the Berbice Bridge to access education and health services, conduct business and travel on a daily basis and that thousands more traverse the bridge annually.
But the Bridge Company on August 29 had stated that it runs the risk of going bankrupt if the reduction takes effect, pointing out that no consultation was held with the Company officials prior to the reduction being announced.