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Vehicle tolls on the Berbice Bridge Company Inc (BBCI) are to be reduced. The announcements are to be made by Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, during his budget speech next month.Speaking during the weekly post-Cabinet press briefings yesterday, Minister of Governance, Raphael Trotman, said that the matter was a critical promise made by the coalition Government while it was in Opposition and on the campaign trail for the May 11 General and Regional Elections.On Tuesday, the matter of the tolls came up for discussions with Minister Jordan briefing the Cabinet on several options.It was agreed that the tolls will be lowered. Among a number of measures to help the bridge company recover from the financial fallouts will be a subsidy from Government.Initial figures have been agreed on and negotiations will now start with the stakeholders on the way forward.Questioned yesterday, Trotman admitted that BBCI is a private company but there are existing legislations which empower Government leeway when it comes to the setting of fares. Government, he stressed,Nike NBA Shop, is not going to dictate what the fares would be but will enter into negotiations with the company.The Minister noted that the Bridge Company has the right to recover returns on its investments but as a “responsible Government, we do have a right to represent the people.”He disclosed that Berbicians from Regions Five and Six have been demanding for some time that the fares be lowered.The complaints would have come from parents of school children, taxi and bus drivers and even farmers.Regarding the investments of National Insurance Scheme (NIS) in the bridge and the possible implications for other investors,Wholesale MLB Jerseys, Trotman noted that the interest of the people “right now is paramount to concerns about NIS. Whatever we do will not interfere with the management of the company, or the right of the company to recoup or recover expenses.”The bridge which connects Regions Five and Six was commissioned in December 2008 after some US$40M was spent under a public-private partnership model.Before that,Cheap Baltimore Orioles Jerseys, persons had to make do with ferries that plied the Berbice River.However, drivers and others have been complaining about the tolls. A car crossing the bridge has to pay $2,Alexander Nylander Jersey,200.Attempts to lower the fares under the PPP/C administration failed as the BBCI and the then Government argued that the administration had no say in the dealings of a private company.NIS, controlled by the state, had some $950M in the bridge.The bridge itself is claiming that it is not making monies,Evan Engram Jersey, writing NIS last year asking that it be excused for not paying dividends for 2014 because revenues had fallen.With regards to outstanding dividends that BBCI owes NIS, Trotman disclosed yesterday that the Finance Ministry will continue to pursue but “we believed that we must keep our commitments to the people.”There have been warnings that the bridge,Brian Gionta Jersey, because of its financing, was heading for trouble.There have been questions about the bridge directorship which is reportedly top heavy with representatives of the private investors but few from the state.Behind NIS, the single largest private shareholding belongs to Dr. Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop through the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation (GPC) and Queens Atlantic Investment Inc (QAII). Ramroop is a close friend of former President Bharrat Jagdeo.The other investors are New Building Society, Secure International Finance Company, Hand-in-Hand, and Demerara Contractors.
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