The Minister responsible for cooperatives supports the establishment of a Credit Union Bank – only if it means easier access to funding than through commercial banks.
Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce, Dwight Sutherland made the comments to journalists during a courtesy call to the St George Farmer’s Market Co-operative Society Limited and the Barbados Pig Farmers’ Marketing Co-operative Society this afternoon.
He said in speaking to members of the co-operatives he became aware that obtaining funding was a major challenge.
“Certainly, I see a space for a Credit Union Bank. Anything that can offer a lower interest rate than the typical commercial bank to push business in this country, I am all for,” Sutherland said.
“Indeed, the co-operators register with the credit unions because of the low interest rate and the ease at which they can access funds. I am proud of the credit union movement in this country. I don’t think they give away the money, they still ask you to produce the guarantees and the necessary assets so that they can recover their money, but what I’ve seen is that they’ve given the working class people an opportunity to access funding and I would welcome a credit union bank in this country once it makes life easy for people in this country to access financing similar to the credit union movement.”
Sutherland revealed that of the 54 cooperatives in Barbados, 19 of those were non-financial cooperatives.
The St George Farmer’s Marketing Co-operative had 38 poultry farmers and crop farmers as members, he said.
During a visit to its Glebe headquarters, Sutherland urged the co-op to expand its business.
Co-operatives, he said, had the ability to help drive the country’s significant food import bill down.
“I’ve asked the directors to try and expand because it’s a very small area and it caters to a wide cross section of the St George community and it even goes wider than St George. But they have challenges in terms of space and one of the things they are seeking to do is to partner with the Anglican Church and talks are underway already to see how best they can expand and offer a wider range of products,” Sutherland said.
The co-op’s secretary, Oliver Catlin, acknowledged that space was one of its biggest problems, but said talks with the St George’s Parish Church – which owns the land on which they are located – were already ongoing to expand.
He said he hoped that the co-operative could double its current size.
The Minister disclosed that he expected the proposed Trust Loans initiative, which would offer small businesses, entrepreneurs and co-operatives a cash injection of up to $5,000, to be in place by November.
“We are very, very, close to the trust loans becoming reality. I think we have one more Cabinet meeting on Thursday and I’m hoping that I can take the final request to Cabinet. Once Cabinet gives the go ahead, I reckon within another next three weeks of approval, once the go ahead is given this week we should be up and running by the latest mid-November,” Sutherland said.