Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo on Wednesday said he does not support the Berbice Bridge Company Inc. request for a long-term extension of its concession agreement, but said perhaps two years might be good enough.
“I don’t believe nineteen years is even practical. That is doubling the life of the extension. That bridge is supposed to come back to us (government) free of cost in twenty years. To give it back to the shareholders for another twenty years, it’s unbelievable and I don’t believe that you need to do that for another nineteen years; maybe in two years or three years so that you don’t have any increase,” he told a news conference.
The Bridge Company has told the Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson that such an extension would allow the company to negotiate with its shareholders the forgoing of any increase in tolls and possibly even a lowering of tolls.
He noted that if the coalition government did not interfere with the model in 2017, the tolls would have been reduced instead of increased. Jagdeo recommended that government hires a financial analyst instead of seeking to use the bridge for political reasons for the local government elections.
“This is what we are faced with. It is an election gimmick,” he said.
Jagdeo also insisted that Patterson did not have to take over the maintenance and operations of the bridge from November 5, 2018 because there was no issue with the safety of that thoroughfare.
Instead, the former Finance Minister and Guyana President said all Patterson had to do was refuse to sign the toll order to block the company from hiking the tolls by almost 400 percent from November 12, Local Government Elections voting day.
The Berbice Bridge Company has since deemed Patterson’s move as “unlawful” but said it would still comply even as it seeks a written explanation from the minister about his decision.
The company did not rule out challenging the decision, in keeping with the recently activated Judicial Review Act; in the High Court.