The motion passed by the Parliamentary Opposition on Thursday, calling for a reduction in the Berbice River Bridge tolls is “populist politicking and irresponsible”, according to President Donald Ramotar.
He told the Government Information Agency that members of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), which piloted the motion, were present in the National Assembly when the Act governing the bridge’s operations and construction was tabled and passed.
“They know that the government is constrained from doing anything in relation to the toll of crossing the bridge, largely because the act itself says that any changes in the toll have to come from the board of directors of the bridge, making a request to the minister…no such suggestion has come”.
Since the bridge has been in operation, traffic has doubled, leading to more business being conducted, the President said.
“You know the old saying, `time is money’, it used to take between three and six hours to cross the Berbice River with the ferry, now it takes about three minutes to drive over. Obviously it’s much more efficient, there’s no hassle”.
He further argued that there’s actually no evidence that lowering the fares will result in increased in traffic and for the bridge to remain in service it must remain viable.
He contended that the call by the opposition is akin to “nationalization” and argued that the bridge is owned and operated by Guyanese and local companies, “therefore we have to be careful how we handle that, in order to maintain that service….the mobilisation of funds to build the bridge was totally a local effort”.
He told GINA that there is still a small ferry crossing the Berbice River that caters for residents living close to the banks of the river and this is heavily subsidised by government.
Ramotar said that the Berbice bridge was one of the more successful private-public partnership arrangements. “The opposition, obviously, are playing very cheap politics, acting extremely irresponsibly with the suggestion they have made”.