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Berbice Bridge Company asks govt for 19-year extension of concession to avoid massive toll increases

The Berbice Bridge Company Inc. (BBCI) wants government to extend its concession by another 19 years to avoid a 400 percent increase in tolls from November 12.

In a letter dated November 2, 2018 to Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson, the Finance Controller/Corporate Secretary of the Berbice Bridge Company  Stephen Rambajan indicated that much would depend on the outcome of negotiations between the company and its lenders on the terms and conditions of the various debts even if the Guyana government extends the concession agreement to 40 years.

“If these negotiations with the lenders are successful, it will provide much needed relief to the cash requirement burden and, therefore, the need for toll increases at present and in the future,” Rambajan told Patterson.

At the same time, the company expressed confidence that extension of the agreement would prevent an increase in tolls

“We are convinced that this proposal will allow the tolls to remain as is and provides opportunities for toll reduction in the near future, removing the need for government subsidy to the tolls and maintenance of pontoons,” the BCCI Company Secretary said.

The BBCI asked for a meeting by November 9 to address the matter at least by November 11, the date before the new rates are due to take effect.

Patterson could not be reached immediately for a reaction.

The Bridge company on October 16 announced its intention to increase tolls, sparking off claims by the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) that the move was a political gimmick aimed at shoring up government’s image among Berbicians ahead of the November 12 local government elections.

The PPP had said government wanted to intervene and announce its rejection of any plan to increase the tolls.

Against the background that the BBCI Chairman, Dr. Surendra Persaud is a staunch supporter of the Alliance For Change, one of the parties in the governing coalition, the Public Infrastructure Minister has already said Persaud’s stance was aimed at securing much needed revenue for the cash-strapped National Insurance Scheme of which he is also Board Chairman.

The NIS is one of several investors in the Berbice Bridge.