By Alexis Rodney
he long walk along Matthew Allen Road can be lonely and tiresome. The frequent honks of cars and occasional laughter of schoolchildren become alien to the ear. Overgrown bushes have enveloped dilapidated roadside shops. Friends who gathered for their usual drinks have found new “liming spots”. The few seen taking a drink or reading a newspaper are mostly bus drivers waiting for their buses to be filled. The ambience speaks volumes, revealing that sometimes a step towards national development can have its share of disadvantages. In 2008, major operations at the New Amsterdam Ferry Stelling ceased, leaving behind a string of unemployment. The new multimillion-dollar Berbice River Bridge became the main way of crossing the river for commuters travelling between the East and West Coast of Berbice. Five years on, businesses that have been in operation for decades are still feeling the sting of this massive change. Many have concluded that although the bridge’s service has significantly reduced travel hurdles, their businesses have suffered immensely.
Even while praise is showered on the government for its move towards development, there are still concerns over the amount of money one must pay to cross the bridge. One shop owner posited that some persons are even avoiding crossing the bridge because of the high fare. “If you look at the people of Rosignol, they have to pay $300 to come across with the bus and $300 to go back, which is $600. And if you calculate the government’s minimum wage to the $600-a-day for somebody that has to come to New Amsterdam, it’s like less movement for them.” The situation would prob-
MonDAY, December 16, 2013
ably be better, he said, if the government reduces the bridge toll and raises the salaries of public servants. People’s inactivity has also affected business in New Amsterdam, the economic hub of Berbice. Another businessman suggested the reintroduction of public transportation. This will ease the “pressure on those who cannot afford the high fare” in a major way. Another of the businesses feeling the squeeze is the outlet of the Avinash chain of stores located on the ferry road. The New Amsterdam Ferry Stelling has been serving Berbicians for as long as the living could remember. According to the few business owners left, they were making a decent living prior to December 2008. Businesses included hair salons, barber shops and a variety of snackettes and bars. Just about five food shops are open for business on Matthew Allen Road. Over at Rosignol, there are far fewer. The ferry operates four times per day, beginning at 06:30h and ending at 17:30h. The pontoon is frequented more by children attending schools in New Amsterdam, while residents travelling from the West Bank of Berbice continue to utilise the services of the ferry launch.
The main opposition, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) last Thursday tabled a motion in Parliament calling for a reduction in the tolls charged for the crossing of the Berbice River Bridge. The motion was moved by parliamentarian Joseph Harmon and seconded by Amna Ally. Harmon said the Berbice bridge was built with significant investment by the government of Guyana on behalf of the people of Guyana and that it is owned and operated by the Berbice Bridge Company Inc (BBCI) — a company incorporated un-
The New Amsterdam Ferry Stelling is usually very quiet these days
der the provisions of the Companies Act No 29 of 1991 of the Laws of Guyana. According to Harmon, government, through the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), is a pref-
erential shareholder and a member of the board of directors of the company. Harmon noted that since its commissioning in December 2008, the Berbice bridge has facilitated the crossing of more than
650,000 vehicles, resulting in annual revenues of over $1,500,000,000 ($1.5 billion). He also outlined the various toll rates for each category of vehicles. Harmon contended that the tolls are exceedingly high
when compared to those for crossing the Demerara River via the Demerara Harbour Bridge and represent a significant devolution of wealth from the people of Berbice in particular, to the benefit of a private company. He added that in recognition of the high tolls, the BBCI, for a specific period over August 1-12, reduced the tolls. As such, Harmon is calling for a resolution by the National Assembly to call on the government of Guyana to instruct its representative on the BBCI board of directors to demand an immediate reduction in tolls charged. On Friday the BBCI announced, in celebration of its anniversary, that several toll charges would be reduced for the period December 15 to January 12, 2014.
The Beacon Of Truth - Breaking News, Top News, Sports, Entertainment, Latest, Editorials, Business, Letters, De Bell Crier, Satiricus, Eyewi...