PSC hopes for speedy resolution to Berbice Bridge fiasco

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While the Private Sector Commission (PSC) is not in agreement with the exorbitant proposed increase in the Berbice River Bridge tolls, it says that the move by the Government to take control of the Bridge will definitely have a negative impact on future Public-Private Partnerships.

Chairman of the PSC, Desmond Sears told News Room on Wednesday that he hopes there is a “speedy resolution” to the issue between the Government and the Berbice Bridge Company Inc. (BCCI)

“I don’t think no one expected our (PSC) support for the large increase.”

Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson issued the order on Monday to take control of the Bridge Company on the grounds of public safety, granted to him under the 2006 Berbice River Bridge Act.

“The Government decides it’s for public good…if that is necessary, then I presume it’s difficult to fault approach except that we were hoping that it don’t come to that,” the PSC Chairman said.

The Government has come in for severe criticism from sections of society and the political opposition for its move to take over the Bridge Company and according to the PSC Chairman, this action sets the tone for future partnerships with the Government.

“It was an attempt at Public-Private Partnerships (and) it could have an impact on how private investors (after looking at this model or situation) consider going into this kind of relationship,” Mr Sears told News Room.

He added Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) are good for the development of Guyana but such situations can hinder much needed trust.

“I am certain that this is a form of development process that can be used in future but there must be trust between the parties,” Mr Sears said.

He hopes that there will be preservation of the principle of the PPP.

The PSC Chairman also urged the Government to explain the basis of the order to take control of the Bridge.

“The Government needs to say how the Bridge Company acted outside of the scope of the agreement and maybe explain how the action taken will resolve the current financial situation of the Bridge.”

The Company on Tuesday sent a letter to the Minister requesting an explanation and threatening legal action over the decision which it deemed as “unlawful.”

Mr. Sears said given that the BBCI is a part of the PSC, the Commission requested a meeting with Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan following the announcement by the Bridge Company on October 16th that it will increase the tolls to more than twice its current price.

However, at that time, the Minister informed it was premature to have a discussion since the matter was being addressed by the Attorney General’s Chambers.

He noted that the PSC will discuss the matter in detail on Thursday to examine ways in which it can get both parties to discuss and settle the issue.

The BBCI has demanded an extension of its current concessionaire period to 40 years, days before the Government moved to usurp its powers. While the Ministry of Public Infrastructure said negotiations will continue during this period, the Company on Tuesday requested that the meeting going forward should be held within the next 14 days.

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