The Private Sector Commission in a statement issued on Wednesday, December 11, stated that “As far as we are aware, the Government directly or indirectly has no investment in, or liability relating to, the [Berbice River] bridge at this time.” This is mindboggling ignorance given all the public revelations and exchanges over the Bridge Company’s ownership and performance.
The ownership structure of the company is made up of ordinary share capital of $400 million and preference shares of $950 million. The holders of the ordinary shares are NIS, New GPC, Queens Atlantic and Secure International Finance Company each having $80 million each, and Hand-in-Hand and Demerara Contractors each holding $40 million.
What this means is that the Government, inclusive of the NIS, owns 76% of the issued shares of the company. Apparently, the PSC’s awareness, or lack thereof, also does not extend to knowing that NICIL, a government agency, owns what is called a Special Share in the company. The Articles of Amendment of the company expressly provide that in respect of specified matters, “no action can be taken by the [Bridge] Company, without the affirmative vote of the holder of the Special Share.” And because the PSC claims not to know that the Government has this $950 million investment in the Bridge Company, it does not need to address the illegality of NICIL granting the Bridge Company an annual subsidy of around $110 million of dividends forgone.
When purporting to speak for the private sector, the PSC is expected to be a little more careful with facts. Failure to do so may not embarrass those who cause such statements to be made but reflects poorly on the rest of the private sector.