Subsidies for new Demerara Bridge possible – Min. Patterson
By Devina Samaroo
As government moves full-speed ahead with the establishment of a new crossing over the Demerara River, Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson said the coalition is prepared to subsidise the cost for consumers using the bridge, which is scheduled to be constructed next year.
“If the Demerara River Bridge crossing financial works out that we have to give an equal subsidy to the residents of Region Three, Region Four and Region Two and all users of that bridge, then so be it. That is our responsibility,” Patterson told reporters during a news conference hosted by the Alliance For Change on Thursday.
Patterson also noted that consultations have begun with those East Bank residents and businesses that are going to be affected, and that budgetary allocations will be made for the relocation of houses and a school.
He said the implications for Pritipaul Singh Investment will be nil but there will be minimum disruption for Muneshwar’s Limited.
“The implication for Muneshwar, if any, will be no more than 20 metres of his land,” he stated.
Patterson noted that there are several houses and a nearby school that may be affected by the noise pollution of the traffic on the bridge.
“Obviously, if persons don’t want to sell, we wouldn’t force them but it’s a high speed bridge and obviously there is noise pollution so we will be making an offer to move them,” he explained.
Government will also be moving to acquire the Versailles property of a prominent businessman as the traffic of the bridge is expected to flow into that area.
Meanwhile, Patterson used the opportunity to respond to the Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo, who claimed on Wednesday that the entire project will be the most corrupt and will saddle the country with years of debt.
Jagdeo alleged that government selected the Houston – Versailles location for the bridge in order to purchase lands belonging to an affiliate of the coalition. But the Minister contended that the location selected for the bridge has been the most ideal spot since under the PPP administration.
He presented several documents including a Cabinet paper, a pre-feasibility study and a public advertisement which showed that the PPP had touted the same location for the construction of the bridge.
The Minister further noted that the non-disclosure agreement government is putting in the contract with bidders, which Jagdeo criticised, does not prevent the dissemination of information of the project to the public.
“The question of proprietary information provided to bidders by the ministry. The propriety information they will get are details of companies shipping rights, shipping costs and those things. Obviously the company will be giving the team these information with the understanding that their competitors don’t use it. So we’re saying to them, we’re giving you information but what you can’t do with it is share it or use it for other than the purpose of preparing a bid. There is nothing that precludes them from telling the public what they want to do with the money, nothing stops anybody from discussing any deals,” he explained.
Further, Patterson said there are various options government is pursuing for the financing of the bridge including a Build, Own, Operate and Transfer arrangement or a Public Private Partnership.
According to a statement from the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, the feasibility study determined that the bridge should be a low-level one with a movable part and three-lanes. This structure, it said, provided the most socio-economic benefits for Guyana and led to the lowest urban environmental impact.