Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
After scrapping the service when they returned to government back in 2020, the PPP/C Government was forced to restore the free transportation service for school children and old-age pensioners from Rosignol, Region Five to New Amsterdam, Region Six.
This comes on the heels of a request made by residents to Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo, during a recent outreach to the region, the Department of Public Information reported. Reacting to the decision- the PNCXR reminded that soon after the PPP assumed office in August 2020, it suspended, delayed, or completely abandoned several projects across the country that the Coalition government had left in place for the benefit of citizens. “The water taxi service between Rosignol and New Amsterdam is one such casualty. Under the coalition government, the two boats served hundreds of residents five days a week, with free travel for school children and pensioners. Two years ago, however, the entire operation was callously scrapped by the PPP government for purely political reasons and to serve the selfish business interest of the Berbice Bridge owners,” the party said in a statement. “We have however noted that residents of Berbice have forced the PPP regime to restore this much-needed boat service on Friday. The boats (Blessed I and Blessed II) were commissioned in 2018 by then Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Annette Ferguson, at the New Amsterdam Stelling. They were valued at some $20M. During the 2018 ceremony, it was highlighted that approximately 600 commuters cross the river daily during peak periods with 35 percent being school children.
The PPP was compelled to restore the boat service after numerous and persistent complaints from residents on both sides of the river. Even at the outreach of 2nd Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo in Bath (WCB) last month, several PPP supporters openly demanded that the free and convenient service they enjoyed under the coalition should be restored.”
The PNCR said other casualties of the PPP’s failure to follow up wholeheartedly or at all on Coalition projects include the health posts in the communities of Hururu and Wiruri along the Berbice River, the track and field facilities in New Amsterdam (Burnham Park) and Linden, and the maternity ward at the New Amsterdam Hospital. “The restoration of the boat service should remind all citizens that their voices and demands can force the PPP to come to its senses and do what is right and just for the people of Guyana.”
Meanwhile, DPI reported that the service will be accessible from Monday, May 30, between 7 and 9 am and from 3 to 5 pm weekdays. Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill, on Friday commissioned two boats at the New Amsterdam Transport and Harbour Stelling. “Our children in uniform attending school will travel for free. Our government pensioners which are our respected elders and senior citizens, government pensioners, strictly old age pensioners are able to also use the service for free,” the Minister stated.
Hundreds of students are expected to benefit from the service after a hiatus of two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Persons who wish to take advantage of the service will be able to do so at a cost of $140, Minister Edghill said.
The boats, engines and the New Amsterdam and Rosignol Stellings were refurbished to ensure the safety of travellers. However, despite the service being free to a select group, Minister Edghill said it will be subsidised by government as it will cost about $25,000 per day to operate. Nevertheless, he said, it is an investment government is making to ensure every child has access to education. “We want to ensure that all of our school children are able to get to school on a daily basis. Government has made significant interventions in terms of providing school uniforms; they have their text books, they have trained teachers, they have furniture in the school, they have the feeding programme, and here again in Regions Five, Region Six corridor, another intervention is to continue a service that was there but was suspended,” he noted.
Subsequently, the minister met with minibus and taxi operators in Rosignol and assured them that the service being reintroduced will not affect their livelihood. The concern by the operators were that they would not be able to make a living since government will be providing a free service. That misunderstanding was addressed by Minister Edghill.
“During the operation of seven to nine and three to five in the afternoon, persons who want to use the service, apart from pensioners and school children will have to pay $140 to Transport and Harbour for the trip. So, your great concern of once the service starts operating, that you cannot operate is already out of the window. We have replaced it to what is known as status quo ante, just as it was before.”
During the meeting with the Minister, the operators expressed their satisfaction knowing that their daily bread have not been taken away. Regional Chairman of Region Six, David Armogan and General Manager of the Transport and Harbours’ Department, Marcelene Merchant were also present at the simple ceremony.