Georgetown, Guyana – (September 4, 2015) The Government of Guyana will develop and support the provision of a river taxi service across the Berbice River. This decision was made following the delay in the implementation of reduced Bridge tolls even though the Government had announced a subsidy in the national 2015 budget that would ensure that the company lost no revenue as a result of the reduction.
This announcement was made today by Minister of State, Joseph Harmon at a post cabinet press briefing at the Ministry of the Presidency.
According to Minister Harmon; Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson on Tuesday presented Cabinet with a memorandum, proposing the implementation of a water taxi service between the West and East Bank of Berbice, primarily to assist school children and the elderly. This was subsequently approved.
“Cabinet gave its green light for the establishment of a river taxi service primarily to allow for the students and the elderly who are affected by the refusal Berbice Bridge Company to accept the government’s proposal for the lowering of the toll. We are of the belief that the Bridge Company will see the light and agree to have the toll reduced,” Minister Harmon told media operatives.
This river taxi project will be launched as a pilot project before it is completely rolled out. For the full project, it is expected that private operators will be contracted.
For this to become a reality, the Minister of State disclosed, a team inclusive of representatives from the Ministries of Education, Public Infrastructure, Social Protection and Public Security will be visiting Berbice this weekend to determine what are the infrastructural and regulatory needs.
“A committee will be looking into these this weekend. Government provides the infrastructure and the regulatory framework within which these things occur. The indication is that there will be a pilot project involving two covered launches and that depending on the outcome, government will be disposed to providing a large number of these vessels but the Government will not do that. The government will provide the infrastructure for private entities to be engaged in these matters,” he said.
Minister Harmon said that the Government was serious about providing a good life for all Guyanese and while the Company is delaying the implementation of the reduction of tolls, the Government will not sit idly by, without taking any actions.
“It is our interest and our business in Government to ensure that the general public; …the children, the old people of this country who cannot afford higher fares, that they are given this subsidy by the government. We will have to find creative ways of ensuring that government’s intentions reach the people of this country, reaches the children, the elderly, persons who are challenged; that they can cross that river very quickly, very safely and at a very, very cheap price,” the Minister of State noted.
Meanwhile, the Finance Minister has been mandated by Cabinet to continue his engagements with the Berbice Bridge Company to ensure that the toll is reduced in accordance with the provisions of the 2015 Budget.
Minister Harmon also disclosed that the Government will be reviewing the contract, which was signed between then Government of Guyana and the Bridge Company since it is widely believed that it is not exceedingly beneficial to the travelling public.
“The agreement is one which we have been looking at very closely…the Berbice Bridge contract was never made public and so the terms when you look at it, it is not favorable to the country. It is favorable to the investors. The conditions are super favorable to the investor. It does not take into consideration the travelling public and we would want to take a look at that,” Minister Harmon said.