The government on Friday expressed worry with the delay of the Berbice River Bridge company to agree to the reduction in the toll for crossing the bridge as proposed by the government, with effect from next Tuesday.
According to Finance Minister Winston Jordan, the company’s Directors recently took a decision to have the matter decided upon by its shareholders, having already given the government a commitment to the tool reduction.
“With September 1 fast approaching the government is concerned that these delaying and dilatory maneuvers appeared designed to frustrate the reduction in the tolls and hold the traveling public hostage,” Jordan told reporters.
It was Jordan who announced on August 10, during his 2015 budget presentation, that the tolls for buses and cars would be reduced from $2200 to $1900, representing a 13.6% reduction while the tolls for all other vehicles will be reduced by 10%.
To facilitate this reduction the government has set aside $36 million in the 2015 budget as subsidy for the Bridge.
However, Jordan has explained that the government is likely to pay the bridge between $120 – $140 million annually in subsidies as the phased reduction in tolls is advanced.
Jordan said the government has also worked out a process where if the subsidy to be awarded quarterly is not enough, additional monies will be provided or where it is in excess those monies will roll over to the next quarter.
According to the Finance Minister, the company wants the government to discuss an extension in the concession period from 21 years to 40 years or for the government to give consideration to an application for an increase in tolls made to the previous PPP/C administration in March of 2015.
“I indicated the willingness of the government to enter into a series of discussions on matters of mutual interest, beginning with the implementation of the reductions announced in the budget,” he added.
Jordan has placed in the public domain the government’s resolve to amicably conclude with the bridge company the mechanisms leading to the implementation of the announced toll reductions by September
“While we respect the concession agreement signed with the previous administration, we believe that lowering the tolls is in the national interest. We take this opportunity to restate our resolve to do everything possible to bring relief to the traveling public in Regions #5 and #6, who use the bridge,” he added.
The Finance Minister reminded that while the bridge may be owned by private interests, the river it is over, is not.