Fairytales have good guys and bad guys. APNU/AFC want you to believe they are the good guys and private investors are the bad guys. APNU/AFC, through Minister Patterson, announced the takeover of the Berbice River Bridge as of November 5, to stop the steep increases of tolls announced for November 12. The knights in shining armour have rescued us from the big, bad monster (private investors). But the monster that these knights in shining armour have slayed is fake, created by the fake knights as an elaborate election gimmick.
Having been rejected by the people of Berbice, AFC needed something dramatic to rescue them; they are clutching at straws, so they therefore created this elaborate hoax to fool people that they care. The increased toll itself was illegal from the start. The very Minister who now announces the takeover had to sign an Order to make the toll possible.
APNU+AFC’s big, bad monster, the private investors, are the very people that made the Berbice Bridge possible.
Those, mainly APNU+AFC, who are impugning the motives of the private investors should truly be ashamed. At a time when the bridge was absolutely necessary, a few bold private investors stood up to make the Berbice Bridge a reality, even though they were skeptical that the bridge would provide a meaningful return on their investments. Their investments were in the national interest, not self-interest. In contrast, the APNU+AFC’s hoax of a fake toll increase is an excuse to take over the bridge in their own interest.
The Berbice Bridge was one of the transformative projects executed under the PPP/C. It became possible because of the vision of the then President Bharrat Jagdeo and the PPP, and because of the courage of the private investors who readily agreed to become a part of the public-private partnership. The bridge solved a huge problem for persons who needed to cross the river, and has contributed to economic development in Regions 5 and 6; and in fact across Guyana, since transport of goods and services became more convenient, more available, and cheaper. The success of this public- private partnership has paved the way forward for the new Demerara River Bridge and other transformational projects in Guyana.
The Berbice Bridge Board Chairman’s announcement that tolls would be increased by more than 300 per cent from November 12 was a hoax from the start. The toll cannot be increased unless the Minister of Infrastructure signs an order to implement increased tolls. By simply refusing to sign the toll order, it is the end of the story. Clearly, APNU/AFC used their politically appointed Chairman to create a monster, and then provide an opportunity for them to come in like knights in shining armour to rescue the people by taking over the bridge. It is killing two birds with one stone: they pretend that they care, and they provide an excuse to nationalise the bridge.
APNU+AFC, with considerable help from some of their friends in the media, have peddled a fake story that the Chairman was forced by the greedy private investors to increase the tolls. The Board is controlled by the AFC Chairman, by board members of NIS and NICIL, and by the “golden” member. The “golden” member is from NICIL, and his/her vote can veto any decision, even if made by all the other members. The one “golden” member’s vote outweighs the votes of all other members. So how did we get here, with the threat of a dramatic toll increase? It was always a ploy, an unconscionable hoax to nationalise the bridge.
After investing billions in the Berbice Bridge and waiting for now eleven years, none of the private investors has received a single dollar for their investment. Which private sector would invest billions and wait so patiently for a return on their investment? Rather than casting wicked aspersions on the private investors, we must be grateful that these private investors came forward to make possible a transformative project.
It is fake news that the private investors have caused NIS to lose its investment of $2.5 billion, causing it to go broke. While the private sector is yet to receive a single dollar, the NIS has recouped most of its investment. If the NIS is broke, it has nothing to do with the Berbice Bridge.
Now that APNU/AFC have done the PNC thing: nationalised the bridge, what happens to the private investors? Will they be repaid their investment? How does this affect the Demerara River Bridge, which is supposed to be a public-private partnership? Who will trust APNU/AFC to invest their money? Now that the APNU+AFC are nationalising the bridge to keep tolls low, then they should negotiate fairly with the private investors. We need to maintain among investors the confidence that their investments in Guyana are always safe.