The impending toll increases to use the Berbice Bridge has attracted the attention of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG), with the union on Tuesday rapping the Government for its less than mature approach to resolving the matter.
FITUG stressed that Region Six supplies the entire country with agriculture produce and thus, higher tolls would result in higher prices for groceries.
The union noted the seriousness of the situation, from both the economic point of view and the future of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), which has shares in the Berbice Bridge Company Inc (BBCI).
According to FITUG, the coalition Government was elected to lead and should therefore demonstrate genuine leadership by sitting with BBCI executives without further delay and engaging in sober discussions on measures to avoid the toll rise.
“In recent days, we have seen the administration engaging in an active media campaign, which has its political hints, in denouncing the BBCI proposed increases. On this score, we urge the Coalition, which had promised to halve the tolls, to end its childish propaganda games and get serious in addressing a matter which has several serious consequences.”
The union noted with concern that the likely hike in the cost of goods and services may very well be out of the reach for many in a region which has been hit hard by the policies of the Coalition Government.
FITUG also noted that the Berbice Bridge was a wise investment and brought to Guyanese people and especially Berbicians, who for some time had complained about the inefficiencies of the ferry system.
From media reports, the Union said, it is aware of the large indebtedness the Company has to its investors including NIS, which is deemed unacceptable.
The increases were announced by BBCI Chairman Dr Surendra Persaud, during a press conference recently.
According to Persaud, they were formally informed by Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson that Government would not agree to their previous requests for an increase.
As per the increases, cars and minibuses will now be charged $8040; pickups, small trucks and four wheel drive vehicles, $14,600; medium trucks, $27,720; large trucks, $49,600; art trucks, $116,680; freight, $1680 and boats passing through the river will be charged $401,040.
Patterson had called a press conference after the news of the increase broke. There, he had informed the press that all options to stop the increases, including legal, will be considered.
Since the announcement, several key stakeholders have been calling for Government to buyout the private investors’ shares in the BBCI to bring a permanent resolution to the issue.