Despite generating some $3M per day, the Berbice Bridge Company Inc. (BBCI) says that it is not making any profits to satisfy overhead costs or give its shareholders dividends. The company is now calling for an increase in tolls.
This call was made today by the BCCI’s Chairman, Dr. Surendra Persaud, during a press conference in Georgetown earlier today. Dr. Persaud noted that since the bridge was commissioned some 10 years ago, the pontoons supporting the mega-structure have never been maintained.
Dr. Persaud – who is also the Chairman of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), the largest shareholder in the BBCI – told media operatives that the Government of Guyana failed to live up to its part of the deal with private investors when a structured toll increase was applied some time back.
The BBCI is now exploring the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the government.
Dr. Persaud said that the company would have made applications of an increase throughout the years but they were all ignored by both regimes.
Stressing that the company is about to go belly-up, Dr. Persaud said that the increase is necessary.
The proposed increases for various categories of vehicles includes; cars, from $2200 to $8040; pickups from $4000 to $14600; minibuses from $2200 to $8040; 4WD from $4000 to $14600; small trucks from $4000 to $14600; medium trucks from $7600 to $27720; large trucks from $13600 to $49600; articulated trucks from $32,000 to $116,680 and boats from $110,000 to $401,040.
Quizzed on the impact these proposed increases will have on the common man, Dr. Persaud said that the company is only concerned with the conditions outlined in the contract. It was later revealed that the toll formula that was designed during the rollout of the project, was formulated in such a way, that it was to ensure that all overhead costs and dividends be satisfied from the generation of income. But this has not been the case.
While the Bridge would desire to have the tolls raised, the government is totally against it. In fact, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure sought to assure all users of the Berbice Bridge that the government is not contemplating any increases to the toll.
Further, the government said that it stands by its decision to reduce tolls in fulfilling a campaign commitment and will continue to work with the Berbice Bridge Company in ensuring that the Bridge is sufficiently maintained and safe for vehicular and marine use.
The government also noted that the Bridge Agreement places obligations on all parties, which include scheduled maintenance and associated upgrades. Ir stressed that any request for toll increases must take into consideration, a wide array of factors and cannot solely be on the basis of recouping operational costs and profits on dividends.
The Berbice Bridge was constructed through a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement. The BBCI was incorporated by the private investors who will manage and operate the bridge for 21 years after which it will be transferred to the Guyana Government.