APNU’s motion to lower Berbice Bridge tolls must be expedited

Dear Editor,

In August 2013, the Berbice Bridge Company Inc. (BBCI) took the initiative to lower the toll charges on the Berbice Bridge. This was a welcome development but their illusion never materialized since the act only happened temporarily during the PPP Congress which was held at Port Mourant on the Corentyne. We call such actions, political nepotism by the ruling minority party. How was it possible for the Berbice Bridge Company to lower the tolls to accommodate the PPP Congress? Were they told to do so, if that is the case, then we call on the combined opposition to investigate this issue in Parliament. Why was the PPP given such privilege and not the people, especially Berbicians. who are the primary users of the bridge?

Subsequently in Decem-ber 2013, Mr. Joseph Harmon, APNU MP tabled a motion in the National Assembly calling on the Government which has 76 percent ownership of the Bridge to demand an “immediate reduction in the tolls”. He suggested that the rate for motor cars and minibuses be slashed from “$2,200 to $1,000 per crossing” and motor cycles be allowed to cross free of any charge. We believe that Mr. Harmon’s quest to reduce the toll on the Berbice Bridge is fair and just not only for Berbicians but for the all users of the Bridge. It will encourage more people from Deme-rara and Essequibo to visit the Corentyne more often. Bottom line, it is commonsense and sound business sense, therefore the Presi-dent and executive members of the Berbice Chamber of Commerce should leave politics and party affiliations aside and support Mr. Harmon’s motion to lower the tolls on the Berbice Bridge. Isn’t this fair?

But to date, this motion has been deferred in the Guyana’s Parliament and buried in paperwork while the people of Berbice continue to face the financial hardship of paying mini-bus operators some $400 per crossing. This financial hardship is “scandalous” especially in light of the company’s continued profitability and payment of significant dividends to the private owners of the bridge while the Government waives its right to dividends. Can anyone in Guyana believe that the minority PPP government owns more than two-thirds of the bridge but is not being paid a dime in return for its investment? This is a blatant abuse of the taxpayers’ money and should not be allowed to continue. It is time for the opposition and the people of Guyana to end this flagrant abuse by any and every legal means possible.

After reading the 2011 annual report from the bridge company, we were informed that the profit of the company increased by 57 percent or $79 million to $216 million in 2011. This profit was generated from tolls of $1,201 million in 2011. We were reliably advised that the profit in 2012 and 2013 was some $116 million and $162 million respectively. How can such a situation occur and Mr. Harmon and his team cannot urgently pass the Bill in Parliament. It will bring immediate relief to the poor and the working class whom the regime has abandoned.

This lethargy from the majority opposition is truly untenable, not just for the bottom 40 percent who live in dire poverty but for all of Guyana. As servants of the people, APNU has to be more sympathetic to the needs of the masses by ensuring that this Berbice Bridge Motion is expedited forthwith. No more delays!

The continued delay of this motion in the National Assembly could result in too many Guyanese becoming unkind to APNU in any upcoming elections since people cannot eat a motion, but they can eat from the savings this motion is aimed to achieve. We appeal to Mr. Harmon and APNU, please get to the task.

Yours faithfully,

Dr. Asquith Rose and

Harish S. Singh

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