PSC not letting up on Berbice Bridge, maintains rejection of Government ownership

The Berbice River Bridge.
Chairman of the PSC, Ronald Webster.
Chairman of the PSC, Ronald Webster.

[] – The Private Sector Commission (PSC) says it has noted the public’s response to its statement on the intended legislative action for reduction of tolls payable to the Berbice Bridge Company and reiterated its position that it will not accept governmental interference in the management of private companies.

The PSC in a release on Friday (December 20) said Government’s role in Private Limited Liability Companies extends to regulating and enforcing compliance with existing laws.

As such the PSC expressed the opinion that private investment must be guaranteed protection from any form of governmental interference with legal investment strategies, most paramount of which is pricing for products and services that directly affects shareholders’ legitimate right to investment returns.

“It is only in the context of such protection that private capital can be harnessed and directed into infrastructural projects which are of crucial importance to the nation but which may be beyond the financial capabilities of government or the capability of government to efficiently manage,” the statement added.

The Private Sector Commission reminded that it is cognizant of the free market policies which have driven growth in Guyana for the past twenty-five years and allowed a strong private sector to develop and flourish.

In its previous release on government intervention in the Berbice Bridge Company, the PSC had stated that “the Company is 80% owned by Guyanese private sector interests, including pension funds and 20% by an institutional investor, the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), that also holds non-voting preference stock in the Company and provides one of the few opportunities for good investment returns on Guyanese workers’ NIS contributions and may also be considered critical to the future of the Scheme.”

Chartered Accountant Christopher Ram has since written to the press challenging the Commission’s statement and positing that Government owns 76% of the issued shares of the Company.

In this regard, the PSC restated that it stands by its statement since the Government, through NICIL, no longer owns the 950 preference shares in the Company since it was purchased by an institutional investor.

The PSC’s stated further posited that Ram is ‘dead wrong’ to use the National Insurance Scheme’s (NIS) ownership of the preference shares as synonymous with Government ownership and control.

“These preference shares are non-voting shares which carry no vote at the Shareholders’ Meeting.”

According to the commission, the outlined ownership structure clearly establishes that the Government has no direct investment in the Berbice Bridge Company.

“The ‘mind-boggling ignorance to which’ as Mr. Ram refers is more appropriately applied to his contention that the legislature can dictate the pricing strategy of a private limited liability company in which it has no direct shareholding and consequently no control” the PSC lamented.



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