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Govt takeover of Berbice Bridge will be too expensive- Patterson

The Guyana government on Monday ruled out taking over controlling interest of the Berbice Bridge, while maintaining that it was keen on fulfilling its promise to lower the cost of crossing the river mainly by children and the elderly.

Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson said it was not as easy as adding up the millions of dollars that government intends to spend on subsidizing the tolls and buying controlling interest in the Berbice Bridge Company or nationalizing it altogether. “There is a guarantee in that contract for a 23 percent annual rate of return so anybody you go to buy from will invoke that…so that will be tagged on as well,” he said.

The National Budget caters for a GUY$36 million subsidy for the remainder of 2015, but authorities said that amount is expected to be between GUY$120 and GUY$140 million annually.

He said government would be unable to take over the bridge because it would be too costly after calculating the rate of return that the investors expect. “The real fact is that we have a constricted financial budget and we have a lot of things to do so simply expending additional sums there while the subsidy… it’s competing for our limited resources , tha is not one of the issues-privatizing of the bridge; reduction of the toll is high priority,” he said.

Patterson said government was unprepared to enrich any of the persons associated with the Bridge Company with limited funds. He explained that government would honour the contract that has been inked. “We don’t want to go down the road to taking back and breaking deals at this initial stage,” he said.

A stalemate in negotiations between the government and the Berbice Bridge Company has forced government to explore the introduction of water taxis across the river in an effort to keep its campaign promise of lowering the cost of transportation for Berbicians.