Today various stakeholders in the Cooperative / Credit Union Sector met under the aegis of the The Cooperative Development Division of the Ministry of Labour and Small and Micro Enterprise Development in an ongoing rounds of talks and consultations started under the previous P.N.M led administration to create a favourable economic and legal environment in which Cooperatives / Credit Unions can operate with integrity and engage the confidence of the National public.
Cooperative philosophy and mechanism have been used to empower the financially weak , through provision of a collective and pooled resource base so that it’s membership can avail itself to otherwise unattainable benefits of their societies in which they operate. Cooperatives have existed and developed in a historical perspective where it’s members have been guide by egalitarian principles of One man One vote, and where person and not money nor percentage share capital/ ownership is the ruler or boss. Simple though this philosophy may appear to be it is a radical departure from the capitalist ethos that exist in many societies where cooperatives operate and flourish. These consultations in the opinion of this author has resulted as a consequence of a perceived treat by the ” traditional ” financial sector that have studied the monetary and fiscal statistics related to gross income and market share of circulating capital in the economies in which they exist, and the results have frightened these capitalists and exploiters of the circumstances of the human condition and so have sought to put in place regulations to manage and contain the potential of this sector.
For many persons engaging in Cooperatives, they served almost as lodges in which their was a ” spiritual ” bond among the membership. The culture included committees to visit members not able to attend meetings and to take care of their many social and human needs. This was more evident in the days of the Friendly Societies.
One of the historical realities of these ‘ OLD ‘ Cooperative Societies was the fact that many of the Administrators / Office bearers were not pre qualified for their offices . Many became proficient in their practices through hands on / on the job experience. Today this is no longer tenable nor is tit considered best practice and the standards of accountability of office bearers has become more stringent.
Civil society and it’s regulators are now demanding more technical proficiency from these cooperators .
I certainly agree that there must be progressive evolution of these instruments of self empowerment of the working class. What I am not happy with is what appears to be the mission to change the soul and ethos/ spirit of the Cooperative Movement without regard to the historical context in which these cooperatives have developed.
At today’s stakeholder meeting Minister Errol McLeod said “that the People Partnership government is committed to ensuring that Cooperatives are sustainable,lucrative and that they give their membership value for their money ” .
The consultation was off to a slightly late start, but once began flowed well.The Credit Unions seemed to adopt a position of not being wanted to be separated from other manifestations of Cooperatives.
A young but enthusiastic Commissioner for Cooperative Development Mr. Karyl Adams challenged the Credit Union Movement to address its current position and situation , where from the statistics he presented about forty percent of the registered Cooperatives on the books seem to be dormant or ” dead “.
The Cooperative Credit Union sector itself engaged in sessions and presented their recommendations to the meeting.
Among the points that seemed to stand out strongly as supported by the majority of Cooperatives. Credit Unions present was that they did not desire dual Regulators. and that a conducive cooperative image and environment would be helpful to the Cooperative sector.
Cooperatives / Credit Unions present expressed their desire to have many more fora of dialogue and consultation with each other on the way forward.
We at this site pray that these consultations do not betray the trust of the Cooperative Movent in the Consultative process.