By Tracey Khan-Drakes
[www.inewsguyana.com] – The Private Sector in Guyana has come out against any unilateral move by the next government to reduce the toll of the Berbice Bridge Company.
This is according to President of the Guyana Manufacturing & Services Association, Clinton Williams who was at the time part of a panel discussion on Hard Talk aired on 90.1 Love FM on Sunday, April 12.
Williams does not seem convinced by the Opposition Coalition’s promise that if it becomes the next Government following the upcoming May 11, general and regional elections it will cut the toll by half.
He was almost amused as he spoke of this promise, and made the point that the focus of the Private Sector is more on the manifesto of the Party rather than what is said on the campaign trail. The Coalition is yet to release its manifesto since the APNU is working with the AFC to merge both manifestos into one.
He also made the point that if the Opposition does indeed go in this direction, then Public/ Private Partnership in the future would be in jeopardy.
“No businessman would want to get into business with the Government as a public private partnership if in fact this is going to be the trend.”
“A unilateral decrease in toll by the government or any government will not be received very well by private business, and it’s tantamount to price control and any such unilateral decision, governments need to be very careful of and I believe there are adequate mechanisms in the entire Berbice Bridge deal…that provides for information to be shared between the government and the Board and there are formulas that are in place how such decisions are to be made.”
While the key players in the sector do not seem to be against the move, Persaud made the point that, “it must be done in unison with the investors.”
The political Opposition has been fighting since it gained its one seat majority following the 2011 elections to lower the toll as calls continue to mount from Berbicians in this regard.
However, government continues to object to this move noting that the bridge is privately controlled and therefore government does not have the authority to lower tolls. The Opposition’s argument is that the bridge, which was commissioned in December 2008, was built with significant investment by the government of Guyana on behalf of the people and now managed by the BBCI.
Government through its investment arm, the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Ltd is a preferential shareholder and a member of the Board of Directors of the Bridge Company.
Since its commissioning in 2008, the Berbice Bridge has facilitated crossing of over 650,000 vehicles resulting in annual revenue of over $1.5B.