It will be a cor­rupt project, sad­dle us with debt and high tolls – Jagdeo

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The

po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion is rais­ing se­ri­ous doubts about the pre­ferred op­tion of the govern­ment in pur­su­ing the con­struc­tion of an­other bridge over the De­mer­ara River and has sounded alarms over the fea­si­bil­ity study done, the se­crecy be­hind the project and a flawed ten­der­ing process.

Speak­ing t o t he me­dia last week, Op­po­si­tion Leader, Bhar­rat Jagdeo, last week called on the govern­ment to come clean on the project and tell Guyanese about the fi­nan­cial struc­ture, level of sub­si­dies, toll in­creases and likely sov­er­eign debt to be guar­an­teed.

Jagdeo asked: “Tell us how much you are go­ing to put into the bridge and where the money is com­ing from… What the fare in­crease is, what would be the in­crease in tolls, how much debt will you guar­an­tee, these are huge ques­tions for a project of this na­ture.”

The PPP/C ad­min­is­tra­tion had planned to con­struct a new bridge across the De­mer­ara and stud­ies on the lo­ca­tion op­tions were done. Sev­eral l oca­tions were rec­om­mended.

Jagdeo said that the op­tion cho­sen by the govern­ment is the most ex­pen­sive and co­in­ci­den­tally, it is the one pre­vi­ously pro­posed by Peo­ple’s Na­tional Congress/ Re­form mem­ber and city busi­ness­man, Stan­ley Ming. He said that Ming, a PNC fi­nancier, stands to ben­e­fit in a big way since the lo­ca­tion cho­sen would in­volve the pur­chase of lands owned by MING.

Jagdeo said he saw the Ming pro­posal years ago and noted that it was made with­out the aid of a fea­si­bil­ity and now the govern­ment has ‘ mirac­u­lously’ chose that lo­ca­tion as the best op­tion for the bridge.

Ac­cord­ing to the for­mer Pres­i­dent, Ming now stands to ben­e­fit from huge sums of money, since the land at the Ver­sailles end of the pro­posed bridge be­longs to him and Govern­ment will have to pay him to ac­quire the land.

The for­mer Pres­i­dent sug­gested that the ac­tual con­struc­tion of the new bridge, the cost could be as high as US$200 mil­lion.

He noted that this would see the con­struc­tion of the new bridge be­ing even more ex­pen­sive than the con­struc­tion of the Skel­don Sugar Fac­tory, com­pleted at a cost of some US$ 130 mil­lion and the ex­pan­sion of the Cheddi Ja­gan In­ter­na­tional Air­port (CJIA) at US$150 mil­lion.

Se­cre­tive

Jagdeo sub­se­quently drew ref­er­ence to the se­cre­tive na­ture of the process now be­ing em­ployed by the Ad­min­is­tra­tion, as ev­i­denced in its in­vi­ta­tion for con­trac­tors to be pre­qual­i­fied and the de­mands be­ing made for par­ties to sign non-dis­clo­sure agree­ments.

The Ber­bice River Bridge was con­structed at a cost of US$ 40 mil­lion and ac­cord­ing to Jagdeo, this ob­tained with no debt hav­ing to be guar­an­teed by the State or any sub­si­dies hav­ing to be trans­ferred.

It was found that the com­mer­cial mar­kets can­not sup­port the op­er­a­tions of the bridge and, as such, it would re­quire the fi­nan­cial sup­port of Govern­ment.

The con­sul­tant in its re­port in­formed the Guyana Govern­ment that the tolls alone would not be

Jagdeo was adamant “the Govern­ment needs to tell us now how much they are go­ing to put into this bridge and where the money is go­ing to come from, how much toll sup­port they will give per year, what will be the level of the sub­sidy… the ex­tent of the sov­er­eign guar­an­tee for debt con­tracted on this project.”

Come clean

He has since chal­lenged the ‘fi­nan­cial com­men­ta­tors and econ­o­mists’ to an­a­lyse the fea­si­bil­ity study con­ducted and con­cerns raised, and “see how many unan­swered ques­tions are there. We be­lieve that this project re­quires much more work, the Govern­ment still has to an­swer how these align­ments landed in their sup­porter’s land.”

Jagdeo sur­mised that Govern­ment i t self also seemed un­aware of how ex­actly to move for­ward with the fi­nanc­ing of the bridge since it was invit­ing ap­pli­ca­tions to make pro­pos­als. “This is like ad­ver­tis­ing for buy­ing man­goes, not a US$200 mil­lion bridge,” Jagdeo sug­gested as he urged the prepa­ra­tion and dis­sem­i­na­tion of an In­for­ma­tion Mem­o­ran­dum for the project that will out­line the pa­ram­e­ters for bid­ders, as was done by his ad­min­is­tra­tion for the con­struc­tion of the Ber­bice River Bridge.

“I an­tic­i­pate that if we go ahead with this project, it will be a cor­rupt project… it will sad­dle us with debt long into the fu­ture or if not debt, a sig­nif­i­cant toll in­crease on the peo­ple who use the bridge.”

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