Gov’t rules out subsidizing Berbice Bridge
While the Government has rejected the proposed increased tolls for crossing the Berbice Bridge, Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson said the Government will look at other measures to increase the bridge’s revenue.
However, he was quick to clarify that subsidy is not one of the measures to be looked at.
“We obviously will continue engaging the Berbice Bridge for alternative solutions, save and except passing it on to the consumers. We’re not considering bailouts or subsidies or anything like that but I am sure that between the two of us, there must be some way we can work on other measures,” Minister Patterson told the media on the sidelines of an event at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre on Monday.
The Berbice Bridge Company Inc. (BBCI) on Tuesday last announced that it wants to increase its tolls to generate enough revenue to cover maintenance and operation costs, as well as make a profit so that shareholders can receive dividends.
Since the bridge was opened in 2008, the 39 pontoons under the floating structure have not been maintained and the shareholders have not received dividends because the Company failed to make profits.
The BBCI which was built through a public-private partnership under the previous government was expected to implement a structured increase in tolls to cover its expenses.
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.
This was rejected by the government on the same day. Instead, the government said it wants to reduce tolls in fulfilling a campaign commitment.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo Wednesday last suggested that the Government increase the subsidies or buy more shares in the BBCI. He said it is critical that the BBCI turns a profit.
On Monday, Patterson said the Government’s position remains the same since the proposed increase is “way in excess and will be burdensome to the citizens of Berbice.”