While making it clear that there could be no justification for an increase in tolls that was being sought by the Berbice Bridge Company, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo said he is still against the Government’s move to take control of the operations of the bridge.
He said “this issue about nationalization and taking over private property, we don’t agree with it, because we are seeking similar models to construct other bridges and hydro power and so on.”
The Government has said there is no nationalization of the bridge and its move is covered by the Act that established the Bridge Company.
At his press conference this morning, Mr. Jagdeo also told reporters that he believes the move to take control of the bridge is a political ploy and everything will return to normal after local government elections next Monday.
“I suspect the take over will last for the remaining five days before the elections and immediately after, we will resume normal business. The toll will not be adjusted because it can’t be justifed”.
The contract for the Berbice Bridge company and all of the accompanying laws were done under the Jagdeo presidency.
He admitted that the Government has used a provision in the laws, signed into effect by him as President, to take control of the bridge.
However, the Opposition Leader said the Government in its efforts to look out for the Guyanese people, should also be following the financial model that was left in place for the increasing of tolls by the bridge company.
That model was never activated under the last PPP government, although the bridge was in operation for more than seven years before the PPP was booted out of Government.
Still, Mr. Jagdeo said “the first question they must pose to the Berbice Bridge Company is that, you have a concession agreement and a financial model here as part of a contract, the revenue stream in the model performed better than what it was predicted to be. So if the revenue stream performed better, why is it that you need to have an extension or any toll increase?”
He said the Berbice Bridge company should be questioned about its cost and operations, adding that taxpayers should not bear the extra burden. He said he does not believe there should be any 19 year extension in the concession for the bridge.
Public Infrastructure Minister, David Patterson, announced on Monday that the Government was taking control of the Berbice Bridge in the interest of public safety. His decision came as the bridge company was pushing for a more than 300% increase in tolls.
The Bridge company has since responded and stated that while it believes the move by the Minister may be unlawful, it will be complying with his order.