The government announced reduction in tolls to cross the Berbice River Bridge will not make its September 1 deadline as the Berbice Bridge Company Inc. (BBCI) and the government have failed to resolve their differences in a timely manner.
But even in the face of this setback, the government is assuring Guyanese, particularly those who use the bridge on a daily basis that it will not agree to any increases in tolls as is being requested by the BCCI.
In a statement on Monday, Finance Minister Winston Jordan, having accused the bridge company on Friday of deliberating delaying the reductions, said “there now appears to be other forces who want to use the government as a compensatory mechanism for a faulty investment model of the Berbice Bridge.”
He claims that the request for an adjustment in tolls seeks to impose a further 55% increase on the already suffering population.
“Such an unreasonable charge will not be countenanced by our government,” he said.
In a statement on Saturday however, the BCCI denied that it was deliberating delaying the reductions but said it remains interested in further discussions on the proposal for 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 toll made to the PPP/C Government on March 15, 2015.
The company further asked that time is allowed for the matter to be discussed by its shareholders and trustees even as it expressed fears of suffering losses.
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. Jordan 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.
“It is now approaching there weeks since I met with officials of the company, the public is being inconvenienced and I hope that the company moves swiftly to demonstrate their commitment to achieving the objection f reducing the burden on the people of Guyana caused by prohibitively high tolls,” he added.