The Berbice River Bridge company is announcing new tolls effective from November 12 and the company appears not to be budging from its position this time, even after the objection of the Government.
The Government has once again turned down the company’s plan to increase the tolls by more than 150% for various types of vehicles
But at a press conference this morning, the CEO of the Berbice Bridge Company, Dr. Surendra Persaud said the company has not been left with any other alternative and based on legal advice, it will be moving ahead with the adjustments.
“The Company, unfortunately, has accumulated losses in excess of G$2.8B, has never paid dividends to its ordinary shareholders and is now in default of obligations to its numerous stakeholders, including the NIS. It is important that we understand that the NIS’s investment in the Bridge represents an investment of all contributors to the scheme, without exception, past, present and future. These investments by the private companies have now been flagged by their respective auditors and regulators as impaired”, Dr. Persaud said.
The Bridge chairman said there appears to be a fallacy that the required adjustment in tolls will benefit the shareholders.
“This is simply not the case. In fact, any excess revenue, as detailed in the 14 pages long tolling policy, which is earned in one year is applied to an adjustment in the following year. Since no adjustment was ever made, no surpluses have been earned, resulting in the required adjustments to the toll being compounded”, the Bridge Chairman noted.
He announced that with effect from November 12, the company will be charging $8040 to cross the bridge while pick-ups and 4 wheel drive vehicles will be asked to pay $14,600.
Mini-buses will be asked to pay $8040 while small trucks will see their bills going to $14,600. Additionally, the company wants medium trucks to pay $27, 720, large trucks to pay $49,600, freight would have to pay $1,680 and boats that will force the bridge to retract will now have to pay $401, 040.
According to Dr. Persaud, “as a company we are limited to the authorities granted to the company as stipulated in the Agreement that exists between the BBCI and the Government of Guyana”.
He said The Government of Guyana “like it is currently doing with a number of services including the bridge can subsidize the cost of the toll thereby reducing the impact on the consumer.”
The Berbice Bridge Company Directors met with the Minister of Public Infrastructure last Thursday and the Minister, conveyed to the Berbice Bridge Company Inc that the Government was not going to facilitate its request for the toll adjustment that is covered under the Public Private Partnership between the Government and the Private Investors in the bridge under the Concession Agreement.
The agreement was signed under the previous government and had come in for a lot of criticism.
The Bridge company said the Minister proposed that Government undertakes the responsibility, only, for servicing the bridge pontoons and offered to arrange a meeting with the Minister of Finance for further consultation.
But the company said those options are outside of the contractual arrangements that “exist within the Concession Agreement and are in breach of our Agreement”.
In a response on his Facebook page, the Director of Public Information, Imran Khan said the move by the Berbice Bridge is “unconscionable”.
The Government is expected to issue a formal statement soon.