The Berbice Bridge Company is now seeking an additional 19 years on its concession agreement to avoid an increase in the toll structure for the bridge.
In a letter to the Minister of Public Infrastructure, the company’s Corporate Secretary, Stephen Rambajan, said the company wants the coalition administration to extend the concession, making it a 40 year arrangement.
Under the current agreement, the Bridge company has to hand over the Berbice Bridge to the Government of Guyana in 2026. The company now wants that date to be pushed back to 2045 and it claims that by doing so, the Government would avoid an increase in tolls.
“We believe that such an extension, with full Government support, will provide BBCI, as the Concessionnaire, the opportunity to approach its lenders’ to renegotiate terms and conditions, of the various debts”, the letter stated.
The bridge company believes that once such an agreement is reached, it will allow the toll structure to remain in its current form.
The Bridge Company has given the Government an ultimatum of one week to arrive at the agreement or it will go ahead with the increased tolls.
The letter was reportedly sent to the Minister on Friday. It’s unclear whether he has responded, but the company is seeking an urgent meeting with him on the issue.
The Bridge Company wants to increase the tolls for the bridge by more than 300%. The Government has already said it does not intend to gave any approval for such an increase. Under the contract and laws governing the bridge company, the Government would have to approve of any increases.
But the Bridge Company has claimed that its law firm has advised that it needs no such approval.
Just last Wednesday in the National Assembly, the Minister of Public Infrastructure said the Government will be doing all in its power to block any increases.
The Bridge company agreement was signed back in 2006 under the Bharrat Jagdeo presidency. It was a major public/private partnership that did not receive much support from the public. Although the NIS invested the most into the company, it is not the majority shareholder.