New Demerara bridge: Perpetuation of misinformation won’t absolve Govt’s corruption- PPP

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The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has accused the Government, more so its Public Infrastructure Minister, of perpetuating, with the aid of Kaieteur News, misinformation as it pertains to the role that their Administration played in the location outlined for the establishment of the new Demera River bridge.

The Demerara Harbour Bridge which is currently being used to cross the river

Acorroding to the party, while it is happy that the incumbent Administration has confirmed that the PPP commenced work on making the new bridge a reality, the pre-feasibility study that it conducted to ascertain to three locations outlined for the bridge “dealt only with possible locations and the different types of bridges suitable for each location.

“It did not treat with detailed costs and other variables. It identified… Hope – Patentia; alongside the current bridge and Houston – Versailles. It expressed an opinion in relation to which type of bridge was most suitable for which location. By no means was a conclusive decision taken by the PPP/C government on any model or any location for the bridge.”

The Party says while it is supportive of a new modern bridge across Demerara, it will not support “a bridge whose construction and location are mired in corruption, whose costs are astronomical and would require unsustainable subsidies from the Treasury with unconscionable guarantees of repayments of loans.”

See the PPP’s full statement below:

Much debate has suddenly erupted in relation to the proposed new bridge across the Demerara River. In the process, a lot of misinformation is being peddled by Minister David Patterson, which the Kaieteur News, in particular, takes great pride in churning out.

Against this backdrop of distortions, lies and misinformation, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) wishes to posit that we were always supportive and will continue to support a modern bridge across the Demerara River, constructed and financed by arrangements that are transparent, accountable, free from corruption and nepotism and which will be affordable to the citizenry and not become an unsustainable financial burden on the Treasury.

We are happy that the Government has acknowledged and has made public the evidence, which confirms that the PPP Administration had already commenced works on making such a bridge a reality and that a pre-feasibility study was already concluded. However, what we do not support, is a bridge whose construction and location are mired in corruption, whose costs are astronomical and would require unsustainable subsidies from the Treasury with unconscionable guarantees of repayments of loans.

From all indications, it is clear that this Administration is proceeding in the direction outlined above. In this regard, the Public will note that the Government has been unable to explain how and why the bridge terminates upon lands owned by APNU financier, Stanley Ming; that this bridge is estimated to cost $170M USD (that is more than three times the cost of the Berbice River Bridge); that no sources of finance have been identified and that the Government is committed to subsidizing this bridge at unsustainable levels. For example, according to the Government feasibility study, if the 2017, toll rates are to be increased by 100% it will still attract a subsidy of over $140M USD, over the first 12 years. That is over $28B GYD, which is equivalent to approximately $2.3B per year.

We view this arrangement as a recipe for financial disaster and bankruptcy. In this regard, we make reference to the Berbice Bridge, which was built at a cost of approximately $50M USD, inclusive of the road approaches from both sides. It attracted no subsidies from or debts to the Treasury and it yields a fare structure which is comparable to what it costs to cross with the ferry.

We take this opportunity to draw attention to two bridges constructed in neighbouring Suriname by a previous government under arrangements that were financially unsustainable. The strain that this had put on the Treasury of that country catapulted its economy into chaos.

In terms of the location of the bridge, what the PPP/C Administration did was a pre-feasibility study and not a feasibility study. This pre-feasibility study dealt only with possible locations and the different types of bridges suitable for each location. It did not treat with detailed costs and other variables. It identified three (3) possible locations for the bridge: Hope – Patentia; alongside the current bridge and Houston – Versailles. It expressed an opinion in relation to which type of bridge was most suitable for which location. By no means was a conclusive decision taken by the PPP/C government on any model or any location for the bridge.

Additionally, we will speak more on the technical aspect of this matter in due course. In the meanwhile, we pose the following questions for the Government to answer for the benefit of the public;

  1. What would be the cost of the acquisition of lands at Houston and at Versailles? Why did the Ministry of Public Infrastructure only announce acquisition of lands at Houston? What about Versailles?

 

  1. With this new structure, what would be the cost of tolls for commuters and for commercial transporters? Since, the feasibility study indicated that increase of tolls will be inadequate to finance this project, what would be the level of Government subsidy/financing?

 

  1. Since we have not seen copies of the social impact assessment or the environmental impact assessment, could the Minister inform the nation how will this site affect businesses in the vicinity of the proposed site on both north and south on both sides of the river? Since, within a specific distance determined by international standards mooring of vessels are restricted for safety purposes in the vicinity of this bridge, how will this impact the publicly announced on-shore oil and gas facility and investments made by Muneshwar’s Limited at Houston and other existing fishing establishment, fuel terminals and other wharfs that service ocean going vessels? (The feasibility study recommends a 700% increase in the toll for river vessels)

 

  1. As it relates to traffic flow and congestion, is there a network of roads that was considered and how does the propose Ogle to Diamond by-pass road fit into this scheme?

 

  1. What is the financing model for this bridge? Would it be a Private Public Partnership (PPP) or the Build Own Operate and Transfer (BOOT) model? Would the selected contractor be responsible for financing and building the bridge as well as other infrastructure to accommodate usage of the bridge or would it be two separate awards?

 

  1. Why is the Ministry requesting that bidders sign non-disclosure agreements as well as waive their rights to protest the award, if aggrieved? Is it because the Government has already predetermined who will be contracted to build this bridge and the financing model secretly agreed on? Are the few selected bidders only to be window-dressing and to give the impression of a fair and open process? Why is it necessary to waive their rights to protest if aggrieved?

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