Entire Berbice Bridge deal needs to be restructured to lower financing cost

Dear Editor,

 

It is unbelievable to us and to many Guyanese that the minority PPP regime and President Ramotar still do not understand the folly of overcharging the travelling public to cross the Berbice River Bridge. But we fully understand that he is not in charge, Jagdeo is. The $2,200 toll charge for mini-buses and cars on the Berbice Bridge is the most expensive in the world yet Minister Robeson Benn has stated emphatically that he will not reduce the toll on the Bridge for any person in Guyana. Mr. Benn claimed that reducing the toll on the Bridge for cars and mini-buses from $2200 to $1000 and to allow motor cycles to cross freely will not be an economic and financial benefit to the people of Berbice.

This is just arrogance and blind ignorance or sheer silliness–to a bread and butter issue for the poor and the working class and it will be costly to the PPP in terms of votes. To what end will the PPP want to protect the profits paid to the Ramroop family (New GPC and Queens Atlantic) who owned some $160 million of shares over the plight of the bottom 40 percent who continue to struggle not only to find the funds to cross that bridge but to put food on the table?

We hope all Berbicians are watching the selfish actions and the lack of compassion that the PPP has for them. This supports our claim that the PPP cabal does not care about the poor; they only care about their rich friends and relatives. We therefore call on all Guyanese, especially Berbicians to stand up to the uncaring minority PPP cabal for abandoning them for their rich friends and relatives. And we urged the supporters of the PPP not to continue to support them because for too long they have taken your support for granted. The PPP cabal believes that they do not have to do anything to help improve the lives of Berbicians because they believe that no matter what, the people of Berbice will vote for them.

We want the people of Guyana, especially Berbicians who are the staunch supporters of the PPP to understand that the Jagdeo/Ramotar minority government does not care about their plight, their welfare and or well-being. We also want Berbicians and all Guyanese to know that during the PPP Congress which was held at Port Mourant, the PPP minority regime reduced the toll on the Bridge for one week to accommodate their supporters. This shows that only a selected few are benefiting from the resources of the country.

This entire Berbice Bridge deal needs to be restructured by allowing the state to buy-out the majority of shares and the debt from the private firms so that the financing cost can come down. Right now over $900 million is being paid to the private banks as interest alone; this is nothing but financial murder.

Next the preference shares being held by the NIS need to be converted to ordinary shares using the powers of the Government’s golden share held by NICIL. All private owners who are not happy with the attempt to reduce the toll can be given a golden handshake with the government purchasing their share at a premium above book value. If the shares are acquired by the government, the benefits to the taxpayers would far exceed those of their friends who are the shareholders.

This bridge is an asset to the nation but it must not be a millstone around the people’s neck because the PPP is more interested in the economic fortunes of its friends than the economic pains of the people. The majority opposition has to act now and decisively.

We want to thank APNU MP Mr. Joe Harmon for his sterling service to the Guyanese people on this issue and the APNU and AFC MPs for supporting the motion in Parliament but now that the minority PPP regime has rejected the will of the majority, what next? The onus is on both APNU and the AFC to let the people of Berbice know that Parliament has voted to lower the toll on the Berbice Bridge but the PPP has not only voted against lowering the toll but has bluntly refused to sign the Bill into law. This must be done now and both parties have to continuously highlight the actions of the PPP to the people.

 

Yours faithfully,
Dr. Asquith Rose and
Harish Singh.

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