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Guyana: Government insists no increase in toll

By CMC

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(CMC) – The Guyana government maintains it will not sanction the new increases in the toll as announced by the Berbice River Bridge (BRB) company describing the move as “unreasonable”.

“The government is firm in its view that the proposed toll hikes for the Berbice River Bridge are “unreasonable”, said Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, speaking after Friday’s Cabinet meeting.

Harmon said that Cabinet was briefed by Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson on the issue and gave its guidance on the way forward. This included seeking legal opinions on the Berbice Bridge Company Incorporated’s (BBCI) proposals.

Harmon said that “other options” would be utilised if the BBCI insists on implementing any increases.

Earlier this week, the BRB announced that effective November 12, there would be a significant increase in the toll after indicating that it had no other alternative.

“The company, unfortunately, has accumulated losses in excess of GUY$2.8 billion (One Guyana dollar=US$0.004 cents), has never paid dividends to its ordinary shareholders and is now in default of obligations to its numerous stakeholders, including the NIS (National Insurance Scheme),” said BRB chief executive officer, Dr. Surendra Persaud.

“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”, he said, noting that the BRB had received legal advice regarding the new toll.

But Patterson, told a hurriedly arranged news conference that the David Granger administration would not support the new toll that showed increases of as high as 150 per cent.

Persaud said there appears to be a fallacy that the required adjustment in tolls will benefit the shareholders. He said under the new toll, the company will be charging GUY$8040 to cross the bridge while pick-ups and 4 wheel drive vehicles will be asked to pay GUY$14,600.

Mini-buses will have to pay GUY$8040 while small trucks will see their bills going to GUY$14,600. Additionally, the company wants medium trucks to pay GUY$27, 720, large trucks GUY $49,600, freight would have to pay GUY$1,680 and boats that will force the bridge to retract will now have to pay GUY$401, 040.

Harmon told reporters that there will be no increases in tolls for the Berbice Bridge crossing and the government will implement all necessary measures to ensure commuters can continue to traverse the bridge without undue harassment or burdensome tolls.

In 2015, the government implemented river taxis for school children, pensioners, nurses and teachers and provided GUY$155 million annually in a subsidy starting the following year to lower the toll for cars from GUY$2200 to GUY$1900.

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