The government is expected to offer the Berbice Bridge Company a subsidy so that citizens could benefit from a reduction in tolls, as promised in its 100 days plan.
The decision to reduce the toll along with the scale of reduction was settled on by Cabinet on Tuesday.
Governance Minister Raphael Trotman told media operatives today that the 2015 National Budget, which is to be presented by the end of August, will make provisions for a reduction but said it is to be worked out through negotiations with the private entity.
“Government is not going to dictate but government will negotiate with the company the idea of perhaps a subsidy that will ensure that tolls are lowered,” Trotman said.
There were arguments in the past, where it was said that the government could not dictate a reduction in fares for the privately owned company.
But Trotman explained that the government “has no intention of interfering with the company’s right to a rate of fare or rate of returns on their investment.”
He said however, that the administration does have a right to represent the people as a responsible government, and intends to do just that.
“We have heard the cries of the people of Region Six and Five in particular, who demand a lowering and if the company is unable to do so then government feels that it should step in to work with the company to see how we can mutually relieve the burden of heavy cost of travel across that bridge,” he added.
Trotman also hinted that there is legislation in place that pronounces on the company and the settlement of fares which government can utilize during negotiations.
He explained that the Minister of Finance, guided by Cabinet’s decision, will meet with the company to settle the matter before the Budget is presented.
The government while in opposition had moved a motion in the National Assembly urging the then People’s Progressive Party government to work with the company to lower the fares. That motion was passed but was never acted upon.
The APNU and AFC subsequently included that as one of its priority items while contesting the May 11, 2015 elections.
(Photograph by Michael Lam)