Ministry of Public Infrastructure; Press Release on the Berbice River Bridge
Friday, November 2, 2018
The Ministry of Public Infrastructure wishes to advise the Guyanese populace of its condemnation of the draconian toll increase imposed by the Berbice Bridge Company Inc. (BBCI) as unilaterally announced on Tuesday, October 16, 2018.
As publicly stated by Hon. David Patterson, Minister of Public Infrastructure, on Wednesday, October 31, 2018 in a Statement made before the 98th Sitting (Eleventh Parliament), “The Coalition Government has no intention of approving the toll increases proposed by the Berbice Bridge Company Inc, and assures the people of Guyana that in the interest of peace, order and good government, we stand ready to protect their legitimate right to a peaceful life in Guyana.”.”
In keeping with this unwavering stance, the Ministry has noted a letter issued by the Berbice Bridge Company Inc. which appeared in Stabroek News on November 2, 2018 and wishes to correct the following inaccuracies:
i) It is inaccurate that the Government has refused to meet with the BBCI.
In fact, The Ministry met with the BBCI on Thursday, October 11, 2018, prior to the announcement of the proposed toll increases. At this meeting it was mutually agreed by the parties that the Ministry communicated its offer to assume full responsibility for the maintenance and rehabilitation of thirty nine (39) pontoons- an obligation under the Concession Agreement that the BBCI failed to execute during the years of operation.
By correspondence dated October 16 and 17, 2018 to the Berbice Bridge Company Inc, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure had firmly reiterated its commitment to assume full responsibility for the maintenance and rehabilitation of the thirty nine (39) pontoons. The Berbice Bridge Company Inc. has since acknowledged and accepted this proposal and the Ministry is working towards commencement of maintenance in 2019.
ii) It is further inaccurate that the Ministry of Finance has expressed refusal to meet with the BBCI.
At the meeting held on Thursday, October 11, 2018, BBCI reported that they had debts in excess of G$6 billion. Considering the Ministry’s involvement, the Ministry requested further details on these debts such that the Ministry of Finance would offer review and according actions. At this meeting, a commitment was given by BBCI that full details on these debts would be provided following which this information would be forwarded to the Ministry of Finance after which another meeting was to be scheduled. The Ministry of Public Infrastructure had requested submission of the information by Thursday, November 1, 2018.
As at Wednesday, October 31, 2018, partial information had been submitted, and the Ministry awaits receipt of the remaining information for onward transmission to the Ministry of Finance. This arrangement with the BBCI in furnishing the necessary information for review by the Ministry of Finance prior to a meeting appears to have been ignored by the BBCI as noted in its letter to the publication.
Despite said assertions, on Friday, November 2, 2018, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure received a letter from the BBCI requesting an immediate meeting to pursue dialogue regarding conditional withdrawal of the proposed toll increases. The Ministry wishes to publicly state that while it supports and welcomes the BBCI’s request for transparent discussions, the Ministry is also currently engaged in obtaining legal advice on the matter and the Government of Guyana will be reviewing all available options under the confines of the law, as well as possible actions proposed by BBCI prior to any meeting with the BBCI. Notwithstanding the above, BBCI’s revised proposal will be shared at the next cabinet meeting slated for next Wednesday, after which a meeting with BBCI to communicate cabinet decision, and hopefully move this process forward. The Ministry wishes to note that this response to BBCI is by no means refusal to meet; rather, it serves to ensure that the Government of Guyana continues to stand ready to advance the best possible option to all Guyanese in continuing dialogue.
At this time, the Ministry wishes to assure our Guyanese people that it remains committed to working towards a legal solution in the public interest, and urges BBCI’s public commitment in achieving a mutually agreeable position for the benefit of all Guyanese.