The Transport and Harbour Department (T&HD) had racked up a total of $815,231,000 in debt to various agencies up to time the APNU/AFC Government demitted office in August 2020.
This was revealed in the National Assembly on Wednesday by Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill, during the consideration of the current and capital estimates for Ministry of Public Works.
Edghill was at the time responding to a question from APNU/AFC Member of Parliament and former Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson, in relation to the new Government’s plan to have the T&HD return to a state of profitability.
Providing a breakdown of the amounts owed to the various agencies, Edghill detailed that $469,980,000 was owed to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA); $231,385,000 to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) for workers’ contributions; $2,343,000 to the Guyana Public Service Credit Union (GPSU); and $7,132,000 to the Amalgamated Transport & General Co-operative Credit Union Limited (AT&GCCU).
Edghill expressed that the T&HD’s financial situation inherited by the PPP/C Government was indeed “troubling” and assured that efforts are being made to take corrective actions.
He explained that the T&HD provides a useful service and the new Government’s intention is to ensure that citizens benefit from the use of “modernise ferries” which would: reduce travel time, result in better fuel consumption, and increase passenger comfort.
He recalled that in 2014, the then President Donald Ramotar visited India and got a line of credit and soft loan totaling US$18 million towards having a new ferry for Region One (Barima-Waini), but no action was taken by the previous coalition administration to capitalize on the facility.
“Five years later…the ferry was still on a desk in a document with controversy, and with no resolution,” he asserted.
However, he noted that within ten days of assuming office, the new PPP/C Government was able to engage the Indian authorities and efforts have recommenced to ensure the ferry becomes a reality.
“I am happy to let the National Assembly know that that US$18 million that was lying there is now being utilised to bring a modern ferry to Guyana…We have resolved the issues,” he told the House.
The Minister further noted that the Government is working to ensure that current fleet of ferries, even though aged, remains in operation. He observed that his Ministry is also considering replacing some of the ferries if it is found that it makes more economic sense to do so.