Government of Trinidad and

Remarks by Senator the Honourable Jennifer Baptiste Primus at the National Stakeholder Consultation on the National Policy for Co-operatives, Chapter 81:03

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SEPTEMBER 11 , 2019


Good morning

Ladies and gentlemen, it is indeed a pleasure to welcome you all to discuss and share perspectives, once again on the Co-operative Sector, a Sector I deem as critical to the economic development of Trinidad and Tobago. This is the third stakeholder consultation in relation to the formation of the a National Co-operative Policy as we gather today to solicit the views and concerns of you, the stakeholders, as it relates to the legislative, developmental and governance issues affecting the co-operative sector.

On January 13, 14 and 29th of 2016, the Ministry started the consultative process towards the development of a Draft National Policy on Co-operatives and a revised Co-operative Societies Act. The Ministry acknowledged that as a collective, the Co-operative sector controls a critical part of this country’s economy of Trinidad and it is imperative that we consult with you on the pertinent issues, which directly and indirectly impact your sector. The Co-operative Movement as a whole, has contributed significantly to Trinidad and Tobago in the areas of entrepreneurial development, wealth generation, employment creation, community development and diversification. It is a Sector that has recognised that in order to continue the sustainable growth of the Movement, there must be the stimulation of the Sector in certain key areas, such as, governance and supervision in addition to the relevant legal framework to facilitate the promotion of the role of co-operatives in national development.

It was against this background, the Government would have commenced the consultative process toward the development of a national policy on co-operatives. The Policy was intended to guide the development of all Co-operatives in Trinidad and Tobago, financial and non-financial. Ideas generated for this Policy were determined through the collation of concerns and recommendations articulated by the sector, and contemporary trends in the global Co-operative Movement.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we can all attest that the Co-operative Sector continues to face challenges both locally and internationally and must constantly adapt to keep up with new developments, stringent financial regulations and changing legislative environments. These changes by no means are daunting to the Movement, as the Co-operative Sector has continuously shown and proven that it has the tenacity and resilience to survive challenging times and periods of adversity, and you, the members and executive must be continuously recognised and commended for these efforts.

You would have heard from the Acting Permanent Secretary, Ms. Natalie Willis, as she would have provided a brief recap of all of the developments that have taken place since the last round of consultations held in January, 2016. With the numerous changes to the Sector over the past three and a half years, the Ministry felt it necessary to gather you, our valued stakeholders here today at this Stakeholder Consultation to provide us with feedback, recommendations and suggestions on two documents: the National Policy for Co-operatives and the Draft Policy Position Paper for the Amendmentof the Co-operative Societies Act, Chapter 81:03                                                                                                                                                                    

I take this opportunity to commend the Commissioner for Co-operative Development and her Team, as well as other Ministry Staff who would have worked together to create these two important documents before us today. Additionally, I must also commend all the stakeholders for their active and fervent participation at the previous consultations and the provision of valuable contributions since then, which were incorporated into the formation of these documents.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as a first step we would have collectively worked together to establish a conducive Policy Framework for Co-operatives that would guide legislative amendments as we develop the Co-operative Movement in Trinidad and Tobago. The Government recognised that owing to the challenging economic, social, labour and environmental realities facing our nation, it was necessary to harness the strengths of the Co-operative Movement and provide a progressive enabling environment for co-operatives to operate and flourish.

The objectives of the National Policy on Co-operatives has several objectives, some of which are to:

-       Provide an enabling environment for Co-operatives to form, operate and grow, and to enhance their sustainability;

-       Promote and enhance good governance in the movement;

-       Promote entrepreneurship through the Co-operative model;

-       Protect members funds invested in the credit union and other co-operatives

-       Improve for the capitalization of co-operatives and availability of financing mechanisms;

-       Strengthen the co-operative movement to efficiently and effectively meet the needs of its members;

-       Strengthen dialogue between government and the movement; and to

-       Promote education and training in co-operative principles, practices and effective management of co-operative societies.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the National Policy on Co-operatives articulates an emphasis on four main areas:

  • Strengthening the legal, regulatory and institutional frameworks for the creation and development of sustainable Co-operatives in Trinidad and Tobago;
  • Transforming the co-operative sector through a more efficient application of the co-operative model, adaptable to contemporary issues of effective leadership, good governance and sustainability in Trinidad and Tobago;
  • Enhancing co-operatives’ role in employment creation, entrepreneurial development, social empowerment and inclusion in Trinidad and Tobago; and
  • Promoting the development and expansion of co-operatives in all sectors of the economy.

While the Policy takes into consideration the aforementioned, the Draft Policy Position Paper focuses on the amendment of the Co-operative Societies Act Chapter 81:03. This Act, that many of you are familiar with, has not been updated since 1971 and outlines the framework for the managementof co-operatives to ensure the safety and soundness of members’ funds, and the operations of co-operative societies within the current economic and regulatory environment.

The Policy Position Paper was formulated based on the content within the National Policy for Co-operatives and recommendations which were received from stakeholders such as the International Labour Organisation, the Inter-American Development Bank; the International Credit Union Regulator’s Network; Mair & Company Limited, Kairi Consultants, just to name a few.

Within the Act, four areas were identified as the main pointers for amendment and/or amplifications to allow the Commissioner to regulate the Co-operative Sector more efficiently and effectively and to bring the Co-operative sector in line with international best practice; and to bring the Division in line with its functioning as a regulator. Those areas include:

  • Regulation and supervision (including financial supervision)
  • Governance and leadership;
  • Dispute resolution process;
  • Audit and liquidation

Today’s consultation provides a platform for the further sharing of the solutions and presentation of ideas in a space of like-minded persons, all with a common goal. Our distinguished panelists this morning will provide further insight and a rich analysis to the National Policy on Co-operatives and the Draft Policy Position Paper for the Amendment of the Act.

When we embarked upon this process, it was the intention of this Government to continue to promote the co-operative ethos in its development strategies and to remain dedicated to the development of strong and viable co-operatives. With this is mind, I encourage the Sector to continue to create paths for groups and individuals in the society to improve their standards of living and foster the philosophy of co-operatives within their business ventures.

The Ministry recognises that legislation is essential to maintain prudent management, and also to enhance the fiduciary responsibilities of organizations operating in the financial sector. Even multilateral agencies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are now putting significantly more pressure on Governments to improve its regulation and governance of both financial and non-financial institutions. Your government is here to ensure that any new legislation will enable the continued growth and expansion of the Co-operative Sector.

As members of co-operatives, as I am part of the Sector as well, we build the road as we travel, a road that we build together for all of us to travel along together. As we participate in today’s consultation I remind you of the underlying need for us to build a sustainable road and for us to travel forward.

In conclusion, Ladies and Gentlemen, this consultation is seeking to effectively address your needs as a Sector and the many issues which you have divulged previously. Consensus building is now the key to unlocking the vast potential of the sector as we move forward. I continue to emphasize the need for your valuable contributions and look forward to a productive session.

Ladies and Gentlemen, May God continue to bless you. I thank you.