Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, says that Berbicians cannot afford to pay – in some cases – the more than 150 percent proposed increase in tolls at the Berbice Harbour Bridge. He is therefore suggesting that the government subsidies the operation of the bridge in order to keep the tolls low.
He also recommended that the government buy out the shares of major shareholders.
The largest shareholder is said to be the National Insurance Company (NIS), which is a governmental agency. By acquiring the other shares, Jagdeo believes that the government will be in a better position to control toll prices.
The former Head of State noted also, that the financial model that was adopted for the bridge company contained provisions for two increases – 6 percent in 2014 and about 17 percent in 2015.
“So those were the two increases contemplated in these years when the bond started kicking in…That’s in the (financial) model we left. We don’t know what has happened since. These people, they just screw everything up. So people in Berbice can’t pay that large increase so the government has two options: one, buy out other shareholders, buy out people so more of the bridge becomes publically owed; or two, subsidize the increase, give an injection into the company so that the rates remain flat,” Jagdeo opined.
Earlier this week, the bridge company announced its intention to increase the tolls; stating that the company was edging towards bankruptcy because the investment was not raking in any profits to offset operational and maintenance costs. But the government has refused to comply with any request to increase the tolls.
The administration noted that it will work along with the bridge company to reach an agreement that is in the best interest of all the parties involved. It, however, did not say when this line of engagement will be taken. The Berbice River Bridge Incorporated also threatened legal action.
The proposed increases for various categories of vehicles are cars from $2200 to $8040; minibuses from $2200 to $8040; pickups from $4000 to $14600; 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.