Home Letters Is the new Demerara River bridge another scandal in the making?
The Guyanese people, I am sure, are ripe with some excitement and welcome the news of a new Demerara River bridge. This excitement, however, is now tempered with the facts that are becoming public and as such, a public discussion is current.
They are a number of issues that the Public Infrastructure Minister must come clean on and level with the masses. Now that there is an announcement by the Government that the bridge will be built from Houston to Versailles, some specific questions must be answered.
1. What would be the cost of the acquisition of lands at Houston and at Versailles? Why did the Public Infrastructure Ministry only announced acquisition of lands at Houston? What about Versailles? Who is the owner(s) of the land at this location?
2. If a decision has been made for Versailles to be the agreed site on the western end where the bridge will terminate, what is the agreed figure which the owner(s) agreed upon for the acquisition of the lands?
3. With this new structure, what would be the cost of tolls for commuters and for commercial transporters? What would be the percentage increase in tolls? Since the feasibility study indicated that increase of tolls will be inadequate to finance this project, what would be the level of Government subsidy/financing? We need to know the amount; it cannot be a blind date. Minister David Patterson, the figures please.
4. To support the construction of this bridge, there will be the need for other infrastructure, approach roads, vehicular overpass and other non-bridge infrastructure that would be priced separate and apart from the cost of the bridge. What would be the total or estimated total of such infrastructures?
5. Since we have not seen copies of the social impact assessment or the environmental impact assessment, could the Minister inform the nation how will this site affect businesses in the vicinity of the proposed site on both North and South on both sides of the river? Since, within a specific distance determined by international standards mooring of vessels are restricted for safety purposes in the vicinity of this bridge, how will this impact the publicly announced on-shore oil and gas facility and investments made by Muneshwars Limited at the recently acquired Gafoors property, at Houston? Notwithstanding, other existing fishing establishment, fuel terminals and other wharfs that service ocean going vessels?
6. As it relates to traffic flow and congestion, is there a network of roads that was considered and how does the propose Ogle to Diamond by-pass road fit into this scheme?
7. What is the financing model for this bridge? Would it be a Private Public Partnership (PPP) or the Build Own Operate and Transfer (BOOT) model? Would the selected contractor be responsible for financing and building the bridge as well as other infrastructure to accommodate usage of the bridge or would it be two separate awards?
8. Why is the Ministry requesting that bidders sign non-disclosure agreements as well as waive their rights to protest the award, if aggrieved? Is it because the Government has already predetermined who will be contracted to build this bridge and the financing model secretly agreed on? Are the few selected bidders only to be window-dressing and to give the impression of a fair and open process? Why is it necessary to waive their rights to protest if aggrieved?
9. What are the experts estimated total cost of the bridge as well as other infrastructure to facilitate and operationalise the Houston to Versailles Demerara bridge link?
Minister, my fellow Guyanese and I would like to have a bridge, not another scandal.
Bishop Juan Edghill,