There is need for concern over a public notice from the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security indicating that 212 cooperative societies are facing cancellation, since one cannot arbitrarily cancel legally constituted bodies registered under the Cooperative Societies Act Chapter 88:01. This is indeed frightening and moreso in the only Cooperative Republic in the world.
We need to point out that under Section 38 of the Cooperative Societies Act a cooperative society can only be cancelled after an inquiry has been carried out under Section 37 of the said Act. Such an inquiry will indicate whether the society has achieved its objective as in the case of a housing or savings society. Cancellation under Section 39 requires an investigation to be carried out into the workings of the cooperative society to prove that its membership has fallen below seven members.
After the inquiry, an investigation is held and the Chief Cooperatives Development Officer is satisfied that there is no longer any need for this society, it is cancelled and a liquidator is appointed to deal with the disposal of the assets and the return of the share capital to its members.
It should be noted that many active cooperative societies are listed in the publication by the Chief Cooperatives Development Officer for cancellation.
A cooperative society is a legal entity registered under Section 9 of the Act. It is a business organization which operates on strict cooperative principles which are internationally accepted. It is not an ‘airy fairy’ group which should be treated with disrespect by those who are in authority and those who know little or nothing about the organizational structure of a cooperative society.
Within the last two decades, the government agency responsible for the supervision of cooperatives was relegated from a Ministry of Cooperatives to a Cooperative Department, and pushed into various ‘holes’ in buildings with little breathing space for staff, (clerical and technical) and its records. Vacancies which occurred were not filled and some societies suffered greatly from lack of assistance. Their cries for help were invariably ignored or in many instances bad advice was given.
The temporary staff employed lacked the knowledge of cooperatives and no training was carried out by the head of the department. This caused a bad situation to become worse.
The present administration has done little for the development of the cooperative movement. In 2012, the International Year of Cooperatives, cooperators were promised that the department would be revitalized by the appointment of staff. As a result, the cooperators felt happy but this promise was honoured in the breach.
In an article published on June 16, 2013, President Donald Ramotar promised to use cane-farming cooperatives to expand the country’s development of cane so as to assist with the short fall by the sugar estates. This has yet to become a reality. While we agree that some societies should be cancelled, eg housing/land cooperative societies, as their objectives might have been fulfilled, the correct action must be taken in respect of cancellation.
At the present time, rice farmers are facing many financial difficulties and the agricultural thrift and credit societies ought not to be cancelled; instead they should be resuscitated and rice farmers encouraged to join. Funds being loaned to these farmers can be deposited with the Guyana Cooperative Credit Society Ltd, which is the financial arm of the cooperative movement. These funds can then be loaned to the Thrift and Credit Society at a nominal rate of interest. Steps should be taken to resuscitate this society as early as possible.
There is also an urgent need for the resuscitation of the school cooperative thrift societies, especially when we take into consideration the present economic situation in Guyana. The reintroduction of cooperatives on the curriculum of the Teachers Training College should be considered and given some priority. Cooperatives are governed by seven cooperative principles which are universally accepted and enshrined in every country in the world which has cooperatives.
The cooperative movement in Guyana has greatly improved many communities and has enhanced the individual lives of its members. The Guyana National Cooperative Union Ltd is a tertiary body, and should be allowed to play its role as the representing body of all cooperatives in Guyana. It is the only legally authorized body to sell all cooperative stationery for cooperative societies in Guyana. It also has the responsibility for ensuring that the training of cooperators is done. This body also oversees the Regional Unions and District Unions in the ten administrative regions across Guyana. All efforts should be made to have these bodies resuscitated so they can fulfil the objectives for which they were organized. However over the years, the Guyana National Co-op Union Ltd did not function as it ought to, due to no fault of its own as several attempts were made to stifle its existence. Management of this union should now be returned to the cooperative movement.
The Cooperative Department has been starved of suitable staff for the longest while. The objective of that policy can now be seen.
Former Asst Chief Co-op