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Co-operatives may be the answer

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The General Employees Credit Union (GECCU) is in the middle of celebrating the milestone of attaining assets of $100 M and a membership of over 20,000. We congratulate GECCU for the achievement and wish them continued success.

GECCU got to this point because of the vision of the pioneers forty years ago and hard work and commitment of the boards, volunteers and staff members over the years. GECCU’s achievement is a victory for the small man and shows what can happen when we work together. {{more}}

The coconut water bottling plant at Congo Valley, opened last year, is a joint venture between a private sector company and the Government. At the opening ceremony for that project, ministry of agriculture officials mentioned that they would welcome other partnerships with the private sector as the Ministry continues its efforts to diversify the agriculture sector.

In recent times, the Ministry of Agriculture has successfully set up agro processing projects like the vacuum packing plant at Lauders, the cassava processing plant at Orange Hill and the chicken hatchery at Dumbarton. The Ministry has recognized that running businesses is not their forte, nor is it part of their mandate. They are therefore seeking to place these projects in the hands of competent management.

Herein lie opportunities for enterprising citizens, and not just our larger businesses. While taking on the management and operation of one of these ventures might be a bit outside the reach of a small businessman, they are golden opportunities for groups of persons forming themselves into companies or cooperatives.

It is an open secret that our local financial institutions are very liquid. It is said that our citizens have healthy savings accounts but are afraid of investment. We need to get over our pride, mistrust of each other and aversion to risk, and consider the benefits to be gained by pooling resources.

For one, cooperatives help with the management of risk. It is spread around. Also, there is confidence in the collective wisdom of a group. Cooperatives not only teach people to have faith in each other, but in themselves. We all know at least one story about a businessman with a brilliant idea who went it alone only to run into trouble because his business was undercapitalized. It is better to own 10% of a profitable business than 100% of a bankrupt one.

Other positives of coming together include the strengthening of bargaining power, the ability to capitalize on new market opportunities like those already mentioned and those that will become available under the CSME, the reduction of costs and the possibility of obtaining products and services at competitive rates.

For example, a group of root crop farmers in the Central Windward district forming a company or cooperative to make a bid for the operation of the vacuum packing plant at Lauders would make good business sense. The farmers would have a guaranteed market for their root crops and additionally would be the beneficiaries of any profit realized from the processing and sale of the processed product.

Not only would the farmers involved in the joint venture benefit, but so too would the entire community. Other farmers would be encouraged to plant the raw material needed by the processing plant, and the business would be a source of good jobs in the community, as it is expected that the farmers would hire experienced managers to run their business. The increased prosperity in the community would then have a spill over effect.

The cooperative philosophy of pooling resources in order to gain advantage may be just the thing we need to withstand the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities that will come with the CSME.

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