It will be a corrupt project, saddle us with debt and high tolls – Jagdeo
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$150 million.
Jagdeo subsequently drew reference to the secretive nature of the process now being employed by the Administration, as evidenced in its invitation for contractors to be prequalified and the demands being made for parties to sign non-disclosure agreements.
The Berbice River Bridge was constructed at a cost of US$ 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.”
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.”