Amid a raging dispute over tolls, the Guyana Government today said it was taking temporary control of the Berbice Bridge effective today.
The move announced this morning will likely raise concerns in the investment community as it will be seen as draconian use of ministerial powers in relation to private property.
A statement from Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson follows:
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER OF PUBLIC INFRASTRUCTURE ON THE BERBICE RIVER BRIDGE
The Government of Guyana (GoG) and the Board of Directors of the Berbice Bridge Company Limited (BBCI) have been engaged in a public dispute regarding a unilateral announcement on October 16, 2018 by BBCI to impose draconian toll increases at the Berbice River Bridge.
This dispute has been ongoing for a number of years and came to a head recently when BBCI demanded a 360% increase on the toll for users of the Bridge, which is slated to take effect on November 12, 2018.
We have stated publicly that the Ministry of Public Infrastructure and the Government of Guyana cannot support the unreasonable demand for an increase in toll on the public which is based on a flawed formula and computation. We have stated that these increases by BBCI are unwarranted and will become burdensome to the people of Berbice and the public, at-large.
On the basis of correspondence between both sides as recently as over the past few days, we do not envision a swift resolution to this crisis.
Therefore, in accordance with the powers conferred upon the Minister by Sections 4 (1) and 11 of the Berbice River Bridge Act, in the interests of public safety, the Minister issued (today) an Order declaring that the functions of the Concessionaire to maintain and operate the Bridge shall be exercised by the Government of Guyana as of 5th November 2018 until the date the Minister specifies by notice on the cessation of the threat to public safety.
We will do everything in our powers to alleviate disruption to the public and ensure that the assumption of these functions is as smooth as possible.
The truth is, too many of our citizens are dependent on the continuous operations and use of the Berbice Bridge and we should not allow anyone to unreasonably and capriciously endanger their livelihood and public order in one of our vital regions.
The Ministry of Public Infrastructure would like to assure the citizens of Berbice and the public in general on behalf of the Government of Guyana that there will be no change to the present toll structure and all exemptions presently in place will remain in effect.
Equally, there will be no change to the staffing complement, contractors and suppliers as we transition into this new and hopefully temporary arrangement.
And finally, we will be continuing our dialogue with BBCI in expectation of an amicable resolution to the dispute.
Ministry of Public Infrastructure Government of Guyana November 4, 2018