Ministry allocates $100M to relaunch expressions of interest for Demerara Bridge project

- sets aside $166M to subsidise Berbice Bridge fares

$100 million has been allocated to the Public Infrastructure Ministry for the relaunching of Expressions of Interest (EoI) for the new Demerara River crossing, Minister David Patterson revealed on Tuesday at the consideration of estimates, as his ministry’s 2019 budget of $38.5 billion was approved.

During the discussion on the capital expenditure for public works, Patterson was questioned by Opposition Member of Parliament Juan Edghill, on an allocation of $100 million that was placed under the heading of the new Demerara River crossing.

Responding to the inquiry, Patterson said, “Mr. Chair, this $100 million under the project code is a provision for consultancy service. Sir, the Government of Guyana will be relaunching the Expressions of Interest for the new Demerara River crossing based on these requirements,” he said, while noting that the new EoI will be based on the requirements of having a four-lane bridge with navigation of clearance of a minimum of 70 metres, along with reinforced concrete construction, among others.

Patterson explained that the allocation is for the procurement of services from the consultant – the Caribbean Development Bank – for technical experts in engineering, financing, and the environment to review the proposals and to appraise the government on the way forward, including the next step as it relates to the public procurement process.

Patterson noted that the initial EoI resulted in 12 bids for the original request for a three-lane fixed bridge, with the lowest bid being approximately US$109 million. He explained that at the time of tendering, all the contractors were given the option to submit bids based on the same information submitted but for an alternative design, for which the highest bid was recorded at US$197 million.

He was also grilled on the line item for subsidies and contributions to local organisations, on the allocation of sums to the Berbice Bridge Company Inc. (BBCI) to the tune of $166 million, which he related is to subsidise the tolls for the residents of Regions 6 and 5, who use the bridge regularly.

The subsidy is currently $300 per car and 10% for all other vehicles.

The ministry also requested a provision of $120 million, which Patterson explained is for the maintenance of the Berbice Bridge pontoons that have not been maintained since construction of the bridge was completed.

“Mr. Chair, the allocation under 1101300 is for the rehabilitation of pontoons. Sir, this would allow us to rehabilitate only six pontoons in 2019 [and] there are 39 pontoons supporting the bridge,” he said.

After hours of back and forth between the Opposition Members, Patterson, and Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure Annette Ferguson, who answered questions periodically, the ministry’s budget was put to a vote in the Committee of Supply by Chairman Dr. Barton Scotland. It was then passed by a majority vote of the government.

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