Government is still vigorously pursuing its option to buy out the 10 per cent of shares held by the DemeraraThe Berbice River BridgeDistillers Limited (DDL) in the Berbice Bridge Company Inc (BBCI) in order to ensure sustainability and perhaps to facilitate a further reduction in the tolls.Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson said Government remained committed to providing significant financial relief for those persons traversing the Berbice Bridge and, in order to guarantee low fares, Government would have to gain majority control of the Company.He said Government was exploring different options, apart from State subsidies, to ensure the fares remained reduced.“The Government had attempted certain things so far. We are currently trying to buy the shares from DDL and obviously with that, we can look at different mechanisms,” he stated during a recent news conference.Last year, Government announced that the beverage giant had offered to sell off its shares in the BBCI for some $45 million. Government had also hoped to engage with the other stakeholders about selling their shares in order to influence the decision to reduce the bridge tolls since the Bridge Company was initially refusing to lower them.But after intense negotiations, Government finally brokered an agreement with the Company to reduce the tolls, which took effect this year.The toll on passenger cars and minibuses was reduced from $2200 to $1900, while there was a 10 per cent reduction for the other classes of vehicles.Government is also providing subsidies to the river taxis, which were introduced after the BBCI maintained that it was not reducing its tolls.The river taxis were meant to be a more affordable alternative to the Bridge, but with the reduction of the bridge tolls, the two facilities began competing with each other.Minibus operators began complaining of loss of business since commuters opted to use the river taxis rather than cross the River via the bridge.The Public Infrastructure Ministry developed a revised schedule for the operations of the river taxis to facilitate the minibus operations.From September 1, the speedboat service began operating from 06:00h until 09:00h and then again from 14:30h until 18:00h. Previously, the service operated between 06:00h and 18:00h.But with the time change, the taxi drivers are complaining that the new operating hours would severely affect their trade since they would limit the number of passengers who utilise their services after disembarking the boats.Junior Public Infrastructure Minister Annette Ferguson had pledged to meet with the operators to iron out the issue.
Every year, GEPAN provides stationery and school supplies to children as part of the organisation’s commitment to enhancing access to education. These items are given to children whose families are financially challenged and who subsequently find it difficult to attend school owing to limited resources.This year, school bags containing two rulers, two pencils, two sharpeners, two erasers, five notebooks, 12 crayons for kiddies/five pencils and four pens for older children were distributed to 200 children in Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo) and 160 in Region One (Barima-Waini). Another 24 back-packs with stationery were donated to children in Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni) while aRecipients of stationery and hampers from GEPANnumber of children from Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) are scheduled to benefit by the end of December 2018.The decision to focus the majority of the organisation’s activities in the hinterland this year was not an easy one, as distribution was rendered difficult owing to logistics, the remoteness of communities and poor infrastructure which delayed access to remote areas, especially in Region Nine. However, given the hardships faced by Indigenous children in the hinterland with regard to attending school, GEPAN was determined to assist families in alleviating school expenses.Indigenous children are among those who face tremendous challenges associated with harsh geographic, climatic and infrastructural setbacks. Shortages of trained teachers, as well as financial difficulties owing to unemployment or struggling village economies, increase the burden of families who struggle to send their children to school.Some families are unable to purchase uniforms and shoes, and sometimes, cannot afford more than a meal a day for their children. It is, therefore, not uncommon to see schoolchildren attending school bare footed with worn-out uniforms in the deep hinterland.