Eastern Credit Union president Nigel Matthew has criticised the “disunity” in the credit union movement and called its leaders petty. “We continue to be alarmed at the rising tide of disunity in the national credit union movement. Is it beyond our leaders to put aside their petty differences and rally under a single overarching institution that protects and defends our interest? “I suggest that we needlessly revel in the enormous contradictions that in a co-operative institution within a co-operative environment, we are unable to work together to move our credit unions into a strong united force,” he said.
Matthew’s criticism of the local credit union movement came a day before International Credit Union Day, which was celebrated yesterday. Matthew was speaking at Wednesday’s opening of the new branch of Eastern Credit Union on Sorzano Street, Arima. The building was designed by the architectural firm of Newel Lewis Broadbridge and Associates, and its main contractor was CG Construction Ltd. It was built under the project supervision of EPL Properties Ltd, a subsidiary of Eastern Credit Union.
Matthew commended the Finance Minister Larry Howai who, he said, has been “forthright in his pronouncement” that a Credit Union Act will be proclaimed in 2013. “The new Act, which is clearly overdue, must pay due credence to the philosophy and operating principles of the sector. We are not a bank, but a financial co-operative, and while we subscribe to the prudential norms and standards, we need to be consistently reminded that our members are the bedrock of our institution and these members matter the most,” he said.
Matthew said the new credit union legislation seems to facilitate the thrust towards amalgamations. “The statistics reveal that 80 per cent of the movement, amounting to $9 billion in total assets, is owned by 20 per cent of the member credit unions. “While we acknowledge the usefulness of these small and micro societies, the reality is that they are subjected to the vagaries of the turmoil in the economic environment and can be a burden to their membership in the medium and long term. “It would seem that consolidations are a logical prescription and we are hoping that the legislative agenda will focus on this important issue,” he said.
Matthew gave statistics that showed the financial strength of Eastern Credit Union. “The Arima branch has grown phenomenally in the past 14 years. The membership now stands at 18,258. Shares and deposits total $140 million and loans to our members are in excess of $87 million. “Eastern Credit Union itself represents strength, soundness and stability, with assets in excess of $1.5 billion. Shares and deposits of $1.3 billion and a loan portfolio of $970 million,” he said.