President Dr Irfaan Ali has explained that his government has no intention of taking control of the Berbice River Bridge but assured that discussions will be held on the possibility of further reducing the tolls.
He gave this reassurance on Monday in response to the Central Corentyne Chamber of Commerce (CCCC) which suggested that the government could look at the option of purchasing the shares from the owners of the facility.
The Corentyne Chamber has recommended that the Berbice Bridge toll be reduced by 50 per cent. The organisation had sent a letter to Public Works Minister Juan Edghill in this regard.
According to the letter dated March 29, the Chamber is aware that as presently constituted, it would not be feasible for the Berbice Bridge Company to grant such a reduction.
Chamber President, Mohamad Raffik told the media they are asking the government to negotiate with the owners of the bridge and see if they can come up with an agreement so that the government will be the new owners of the bridge.
But President Dr Irfaan Ail said the government will not do that.
“We believe in a free open society and so the government would not go and take over the bridge. This government is willing to work with every single stakeholder and if it is that the shareholders of the bridge want to speak with the government then, believe me, that you have a government that is receptive. The PPP [People’s Progressive Party] is willing to listen to them so that we can make the best possible decision in the interest of the people of this region and the people of the country.”
The cost for a small vehicle to cross the Berbice River Bridge is $1900 compared with $200 for a small vehicle to cross the Demerara Harbour Bridge.
Bicycles and pedestrians are forbidden from using the bridge.
That is one of the reasons for the Chamber seeking to have the bridge toll reduced by at least 50 per cent.
“I want to make it clear, this is not taking over the bridge. We are asking the Government to negotiate with the owners of the bridge and see if they can come up with an agreement so that the Government will be the new owners of the bridge,” Raffik had explained.
According to President Ail, something can be done to reduce the cost.
“This Government would embrace that action because fundamentally we want to remove as much hardship from the people. That is our fundamental philosophy,” the President posited.