Even as the local co-operative movement seeks to recover from its decades of doldrums, not least its countless failed and abortive excursions into start-stop business ventures that have left groups across the country in a condition of acute disappointment, a University of Guyana business Professor insists that there is a way back for the sector.
Dean of the School of Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation at the University of Guyana Dr. Leyland Lucas says that co-operatives and credit unions can be important tools in the pursuit of efforts to create a more robust entrepreneurial ecosystem in Guyana.
In an article scheduled for publication in The Guyana Review in April, Professor Lucas asserts that credit unions in their role as “guardians of significant financial assets” must begin to “see themselves as enablers of economic activity rather than guardians of savings,” a posture which he says, “changes their standing in the national economy.”
The observation is likely to resonate with many credit union members across the country who have, for years, challenged the imbalance between the considerable liquidity of some of the country’s larger credit unions and their inability over the years to utilize the financial power to exert greater leverage on the country’s economy. When Stabroek Business put Professor Lucas’ perspective to a board member of one of the country’s largest credit unions the respondent replied that the decisions made by credit unions in the matter of the disbursement of their finances “is usually in the hands of the membership”.
But Lucas insists that “with enlightened management and not much risk” credit unions can play a pivotal role in helping to develop entrepreneurs and a new group of wealth generators. He offered as an example a retiring member of the security forces whom he said may be able to use support from the associated credit union to embark on a new post-retirement venture. According to Lucas “within the last five years we have seen institutions such as the US military establish programmes with universities to offer accelerated training in the basics of entrepreneurship.” Lucas says he believes that similar training can be undertaken by credit unions in Guyana to spur the growth of entrepreneurship among current and retiring members of the disciplined forces here.
Lucas contends that such initiatives by credit unions require both financial resources and a strong support system, “one that not only helps to educate the borrower/member of the challenges of entrepreneurship but provides the support mechanisms that will help to sustain them in challenging times.” Additionally, he says that the effective implementation of such measures also requires “personnel with the necessary knowledge to effectively perform these new duties and support programmes to aid entrepreneurship development.”
Meanwhile, Lucas says that like credit unions, cooperatives can also play a vital role in the entrepreneurship ecosystem, “one that not only helps to educate the borrower/member of the challenges of entrepreneurship but provides the support mechanisms to aid entrepreneurship development………Whether these are agricultural cooperatives intended to engage in value-added production, technological development or some other form of economic activity, they can play a vital role in sustaining the entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Lucas adds,
Meanwhile, Lucas says in his article that co-operatives can also contribute to the growth of the entrepreneurial system. Co-operatives, he says, “”can serve as the foundation for the revitalization of the village economies……..whether these be agricultural co-operatives intended to engage in value-added production, technological development, or some other form of economic activity. By combining their resources and members’ interests they provide a reinforcing mechanism whereby commitment to future success can be demonstrated,” Lucas adds.
And according to the UG Professor co-operatives can also serve as a safety net for new ventures. “The fact that benefits within co-operatives extend beyond economic rewards to include social and psychological benefits allow for a broader definition of entrepreneurial success to be embraced.”