Although Labour and Small Enterprise Development Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus says her Government will listen to the views and concerns of the Credit Union Co-operative Society on reviewing legislation put forward by the previous government, she says the sector will have to compromise to some extent.
Baptiste-Primus was speaking at the start of a two-day national stakeholder consultation on the local co-operative sector towards the development of a draft national policy on Co-operatives and a revised Co-operative Societies Act at the National Energy Skills Centre (NESC) in Couva on Wednesday.
The People’s partnership government had brought two pieces of legislation into Parliament in 2014 for debate but those pieces have since lapsed.
Baptiste-Primus said if the pieces had not lapsed, she would have shelved them as soon as she assumed office in 2015.
“We as a government should not dictate to the credit union movement.
“However, as a government we have a responsibility to ensure that the credit union sector operates by good governance principles and there are high levels of accountability,” said Baptiste-Primus.
“So that I think at the end of the day, we will have to compromise on certain issues but I am very pleased with what I see here today.”
She commended those in the sector for bringing ‘data-based’ responses to the legislation brought by the previous administration.
“I commend them for not bringing an emotional response as I said in my address, but a data-driven response. They have brought consultants, who have done clinical analysis of those two pieces of legislation and how they would impact negatively on the credit union sector.”
Acknowledging the concerns of the sector, Baptiste-Primus said the credit union sector cannot be governed by two masters.
“One of the concerns they had is that it is a hydra-headed animal and the credit union sector cannot be governed by two masters and there is validity in such a concern.
“At the end of it as the Government representative, we are here to listen to the needs of the sector, we are not here to dictate to the sector but receive what their needs are and then formulate legislation that would further enable their growth and development.”
Describing herself as an “old credit unionist,” Baptiste-Primus said she understood why the previous legislation could not be accepted by the sector.
“What was proposed was to treat the credit unions like a bank, the whole philosophy of the credit union is not that.
“I am an old credit unionist, I was nurtured in the credit union and I understand it well.
“I have served at the level Public Service Credit Union, so that I understand the sector I understand the role it has played, how it has empowered people throughout the years and they are further roles that they could play.”