Bridge com­pany has agreed for min­istry to main­tain 39 pon­toons, gov’t has not re­fused meet­ings

Stabroek News Sunday - - LETTERS -

Dear Ed­i­tor, The Min­istry of Pub­lic In­fra­struc­ture wishes to ad­vise the Guyanese pop­u­lace of its con­dem­na­tion of the dra­co­nian toll in­crease im­posed by the Ber­bice Bridge Com­pany Inc. (BBCI) as uni­lat­er­ally an­noun-ced on Tues­day, Oc­to­ber 16, 2018.

As pub­licly stated by Hon. David Pat­ter­son, Min­is­ter of Pub­lic In­fra­struc­ture, on Wed­nes­day, Oc­to­ber 31, 2018 in a State­ment made be­fore the 98th Sit­ting (Eleventh Par­lia­ment), “The Coali­tion Gov­ern­ment has no in­ten­tion of ap­prov­ing the toll in­creases pro­posed by the Ber­bice Bridge Com­pany Inc, and as­sures the peo­ple of Guyana that in the in­ter­est of peace, or­der and good gov­ern­ment, we stand ready to pro­tect their le­git­i­mate right to a peace­ful life in Guyana.” In keep­ing with this un­wa­ver­ing stance, the Min­istry has noted a let­ter is­sued by the Ber­bice Bridge Com­pany Inc. which ap­peared in Stabroek News on Novem­ber 2, 2018 and wishes to cor­rect the fol­low­ing in­ac­cu­ra­cies:

i) It is in­ac­cu­rate that the Gov­ern­ment has re­fused to meet with the BBCI.

In fact, the Min­istry met with the BBCI on Thurs­day, Oc­to­ber 11, 2018, prior to the an­nounce­ment of the pro­posed toll in­creases. At this meet­ing it was mu­tu­ally agreed by the par­ties that the Min­istry com­mu­ni­cated its of­fer to as­sume full re­spon­si­bil­ity for the main­te­nance and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of thirty-nine pon­toon­san obli­ga­tion un­der the Con­ces­sion Agree­ment that the BBCI failed to ex­e­cute dur­ing the years of op­er­a­tion.

By cor­re­spon­dence dated Oc­to­ber 16 and 17, 2018 to the Ber­bice Bridge Com­pany Inc, the Min­istry of

Pub­lic In­fra­struc­ture had firmly re­it­er­ated its com­mit­ment to as­sume full re­spon­si­bil­ity for the main­te­nance and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of the 39 pon­toons. The Ber­bice Bridge Com­pany Inc. has since ac­knowl­edged and ac­cepted this pro­posal and the Min­istry is work­ing to­wards com­mence­ment of main­te­nance in 2019.

ii) It is fur­ther in­ac­cu­rate that the Min­istry of Fi­nance has ex­pressed re­fusal to meet with the BBCI.

At the meet­ing held on Thurs­day, Oc­to­ber 11, 2018, BBCI re­ported that they had debts in ex­cess of G$6 bil­lion. Con­sid­er­ing the Min­istry’s in­volve­ment, the Min­istry re­quested fur­ther de­tails on these debts such that the Min­istry of Fi­nance would of­fer re­view and take ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tions. At this meet­ing, a com­mit­ment was given by BBCI that full de­tails on these debts would be pro­vided fol­low­ing which this in­for­ma­tion would be for­warded to the Min­istry of Fi­nance af­ter which an­other meet­ing was to be sched­uled. The Min­istry of Pub­lic In­fra­struc­ture had re­quested sub­mis­sion of the in­for­ma­tion by Thurs­day, Novem­ber 1, 2018.

As at Wed­nes­day, Oc­to­ber 31, 2018, par­tial in­for­ma­tion had been sub­mit­ted, and the Min­istry awaits re­ceipt of the re­main­ing in­for­ma­tion for on­ward trans­mis­sion to the Min­istry of Fi­nance. This ar­range­ment with the BBCI in fur­nish­ing the nec­es­sary in­for­ma­tion for re­view by the Min­istry of Fi­nance prior to a meet­ing ap­pears to have been ig­nored by the BBCI as noted in its let­ter to the pub­li­ca­tion.

De­spite said as­ser­tions, on Fri­day, Novem­ber 2, 2018, the Min­istry of Pub­lic In­fra­struc­ture re­ceived a let­ter from the BBCI re­quest­ing an im­me­di­ate meet­ing to pur­sue dia­logue re­gard­ing the con­di­tional with­drawal of the pro­posed toll in­creases. The Min­istry wishes to pub­licly state that while it sup­ports and wel­comes the BBCI’s re­quest for trans­par­ent dis­cus­sions, the Min­istry is also cur­rently en­gaged in ob­tain­ing le­gal ad­vice on the mat­ter and the Gov­ern­ment of Guyana will be re­view­ing all avail­able op­tions un­der the con­fines of the law, as well as pos­si­ble ac­tions pro­posed by BBCI prior to any meet­ing with the BBCI. Notwith­stand­ing the above, BBCI’s re­vised pro­posal will be shared at the next cab­i­net meet­ing slated for next Wed­nes­day, af­ter which a meet­ing will be sched­uled with BBCI to com­mu­ni­cate cab­i­net’s de­ci­sion, and hope­fully move this process for­ward. The Min­istry wishes to note that this re­sponse to BBCI is by no means a re­fusal to meet; rather, it serves to en­sure that the Gov­ern­ment of Guyana con­tin­ues to stand ready to ad­vance the best pos­si­ble op­tion to all Guyanese in con­tin­u­ing dia­logue.

At this time, the Min­istry wishes to as­sure our Guyanese peo­ple that it re­mains com­mit­ted to work­ing to­wards a le­gal so­lu­tion in the pub­lic in­ter­est, and urges BBCI’s pub­lic com­mit­ment in achiev­ing a mu­tu­ally agree­able po­si­tion for the ben­e­fit of all Guyanese. Yours faith­fully, Krest Cum­mings Pub­lic Re­la­tions Of­fi­cer Min­istry of Pub­lic In­fra­struc­ture

Let­ters con­tin­ued on page 9

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