The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) says it is ‘categorically opposed’ to any increase in the Berbice Bridge tolls and is rebuking the incumbent Administration for trying to the blame them for the sharp increases in tolls that the Berbice Bridge Company Inc (BCCI) has announced.
In a statement on the issue, the Party, under whose tenure in Government the bridge was created, said that it advanced the construction of the bridge across the Berbice River with no additional burden to Guyanese taxpayers.
The PPP also said that had the A Partnership for National Unity/ Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Administration continued with the financial model that was used by them then there would have been no proposed increases of this magnitude.
“The bridge was built around a financial model that did not envisage such massive increases in tolls; rather minimal increases were envisaged – followed by a steep decline in tolls – until the Berbice Bridge was handed over to the State. Since July 2018, the PPP General Secretary and Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, questioned whether the current Administration tinkered with the financial model. To date this question remains unanswered” the Opposition said. “The APNU+AFC Coalition holds office and must bear the responsibility of ensuring that there are no further impositions of hardship measures on Guyanese people. They have to address this issue.”
Moreover, the PPP posited that if “there is any move by the APNU+AFC Coalition Government to sign a toll order to bring into effect the proposed increases, the People’s Progressive Party commits to reversing the increase after the 2020 General and Regional Elections.”
The new tolls were announced by BBCI Chairman Dr Surendra Persaud, during a press conference on Tuesday.
According to Persaud, they were formally informed by Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson that government would not entertain their requests for an increase in keeping with the existing agreement.
“The Minister, instead, proposed that Government undertake the responsibility, only, for servicing the bridge pontoons and offered to arrange a meeting with the honorable Minister of Finance for further consultation. These options are outside of the contractual arrangements that exist within the Concession Agreement and are in breach of our Agreement” said Persaud.
The Company which has accumulated losses in excess of G$2.8B, has never paid dividends to its ordinary shareholders and is now in default of obligations to its numerous stakeholders, including the NIS.
According to the BCCI Chariman “the Government of Guyana like it is currently doing with a number of services including the bridge can subsidize the cost of the toll thereby reducing the impact on the consumer.”
Cars and minibuses will now be charged $8,040; pickups, small trucks and four wheel drive vehicles, $14,600; medium trucks, $27,720; large trucks, $49,600; Art trucks, $116,680; freight, $1,680 and boats passing through the river will be charged $401,040.
These increases go into effect from November 12, a date Persaud stressed was advised by their legal team from Cameron and Shepherd and did not concern Local Government Elections.
According to the PPP “We do not support an increase in the tolls particularly given what is happening in Berbice – loss of thousands of jobs in the sugar industry and other sectors – as a result of the policies of the APNU+AFC Coalition Government.”