GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) – The Guyana government Friday said it would begin a water taxi service across the Berbice River from Monday after the Berbice Bridge Company Inc (BBCI) refused to lower its tolls for using the bridge.
Minister of State Joe Harmon said the service would start even as the government continues discussions with BBCI on lowering the toll. The company has said it is still consulting with its shareholders on the issue and Harmon said he hopes good sense will prevail.
Finance Minister, during his 2015 budget presentation announced that the tolls for buses and cars would have been reduced from $2200 to $1900, representing a 13.6 per cent reduction while the tolls for all other vehicles would have been reduced by 10 per cent.
However, the Berbice Bridge Company, which is privately owned, said it needed to consult with its shareholders although the government would have been paying the bridge the difference from the reduction through a subvention.
During his budget presentation earlier this year, Finance Minister Winston Jordan announced that the tolls for buses and cars would have been reduced from GUY$2200 to GUY$1900 (One Guyana dollar =US$0.008 cents), representing a 13.6 per cent reduction while the tolls for all other vehicles would have been reduced by 10 per cent.
Late last month, the BBCI issued a statement indicating that it runs the risk of having to file for insolvency if it is not able to meet its profit margins and pay dividends to shareholders.
BBCI also said that the subsidy being offered by the government does not cover increase in tolls.
However, Jordan said that with the current fare structure, BBCI should not incur any losses since it will be subsidised by the government.
“Contrary to the company’s statement there is no toll reduction to the company. The company will continue to receive the full amount of the approved toll; only now a part will be met by the government,” Jordan said then.
Harmon said that the river taxi service will begin in the form of a pilot project transporting people from the West Bank of the Berbice River to the East and will also be beneficial to students and older people.