Officials of the Berbice Bridge Company are expressing fears that the company could become bankrupt if its repeated requests to have tolls increases are not approved by the government in the shortest possible time.
BCCI’s Chairman, Dr. Surendra Persaud said the Bridge Company dispatched letters to the government three times during 2015 and 2016, asking for an adjustment to the current toll structure but those letters were delivered without any response forthcoming from the administration.
He said the delay in the toll adjustments has resulted in the Bridge company accumulating a loss of $2.8 billion and the company now faces bankruptcy.
“The tool adjustment is an essential requirement to ensure that he bridge company can continue to execute its mandate, including meeting its obligations to its financiers,” Dr. Persaud stressed during a press conference called specially to address the issue.
The Chairman also reasoned that the the contractual obligations of the government as it relates to these adjustments have not been met, explaining further that failure to implement the adjustment is inconsistent with the Concession Agreement and the provisions of the Act.
“These accumulated looses and shortfall of cash flow have compromised the bridge company’s obligation to efficiently operate and maintain the bridge, including the timely serving of its 39 pontoons under the bridge,” he added.
Dr. Persaud reminded that the bridge has been in operation for more than 10 years, having been built at a cost of $9 billion and it is sad that it now faces, what he described as a “man-made crisis.”
That crisis, he said, can be fixed, explaining that the bridge company has filed, yet another application with the Minister of Public Infrastructure to approve the adjustments as he is empowered to do.
An engagement with Minister David Patterson reportedly ended with a promise for Cabinet to approve a stopgap proposal. That proposal was not approved, Dr. Persaud said he was informed.
“This situation cannot be allowed to continue since we will all suffer,” he said reminding that an adjustment in tolls will not benefit the shareholders since the tolling policy makes provision for any excess revenue that is earned in one year is to be applied to an adjustment in the following year.
“The Board believes that this situation is fixable. There is a contract, there is an established formula within that contract and there are obligations to be met. History will judge us very harshly should we fail to deliver on this promise.”
The bridge company said the increase as per the toll formula will see cars and minibuses which currently pay $2,200 paying $5,840 to cross the bridge. Boats will move from $110,000 to $291,000 and large trucks from $13,000 to $36,000.
Currently the tools on the bridge are subsidized by the government.
The Bridge Company said it has spoken to Minister David Patterson about the situation and the losses it encounters on a daily basis and hopes for a swift solution to the issue.