The cooperative movement has been urged to invest in micro-businesses and seize the opportunity to make a significant contribution to Barbados’ economic recovery. Making this appeal was Prime Minister Freundel Stuart as he addressed the 35th anniversary awards dinner of the Public Transport Cooperative Credit Union Limited at Hilton Barbados on Saturday night.
He pointed out that there were 35 credit unions operating in Barbados, with a membership of over 152,000 and a capital base of over $1.6 billion.
“I am convinced that the cooperative movement, with its emphasis on training and education for its members, with access to financial resources and a commitment to ethical financial management, has the wherewithal to spearhead the democratization and growth of the Barbados economy,” he told his audience.
Conceding that it would be unwise for credit unions to overload their portfolios with high-risk loans, Stuart stressed, however, that the increase in the provision of capital for investment in new business enterprises would go some way towards the goal of transforming Barbados into a major entrepreneurial centre by 2020.
“I share the vision of Barbados as a cradle for entrepreneurs. Obviously, we cannot all be entrepreneurs; but I am sure that you would agree with me that in the era of economic emancipation, we can no longer leave wealth creation to a small elite, or consider self-employment as a last resort.
“. . . In this highly competitive new world, small open economies like Barbados will have to abandon the policy of over-dependence on one or two industries or markets, and find niches in which they have a comparative, and indeed, a competitive advantage. They will need large numbers of entrepreneurs drawn from all classes, who are constantly on the lookout for business opportunities and who have the capacity to capitalize on those opportunities,” he stated.
Stuart said that after 50 years of free education, the time had come for the country to look critically at the relevance of the education being provided for young people. [We need] to send a clear message to our people that in this new cycle, the emphasis must shift from getting more and more qualifications just to find a job, to making the fullest use of existing qualifications, both seeking out and creating new opportunities. Every stakeholder must see education as an investment and not just as an end in itself.
“I believe that Barbados is currently on the threshold of realizing that stage of economic emancipation, by which increasing numbers of its citizens from all classes will use their talents, their education and their skills to create wealth and employment, not only as employees, but as owners of their own business enterprises,” he surmised.
During the awards ceremony, staffers Maria Lorde and Gloria Small received long service awards, while certificates of appreciation were given to individuals and representatives of various organizations.