As the country continues to experience the fall-out from the COVID-19 pandemic, this country’s Minister of Energy, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Kerrie Symmonds, believes that the co-operative movement will play a pivotal role in the empowerment of Barbadian businesses.
He expressed renewed optimism in the movement in a message to mark International Day of Co-operatives which was celebrated on Saturday, July 3, under the theme: Rebuild Better Together.
Minister Symmonds reasoned that the co-operative movement was an innovative means by which businesses could realise economies of scale and reduce cost when acquiring inputs for their operations and the marketing of products.
He stated: “Such economies of scale can also be realised when small businesses with similar production processes, within a co-operatives setting, share machinery and other relevant assets such as modes of transportation of inputs and final products.
“Overall, the togetherness and the networking of businesses that the co-operatives movement promotes, can act to support a system of inter-business collaboration that would allow for the reduction of production costs across member businesses, the sharing of knowledge and the acquisition of affordable training for members.”
Furthermore, Mr. Symmonds articulated the view that this kind of collaboration is the driving force behind realising market competitiveness for small businesses, which is “necessary for the building of a sound small business sector, diversifying the Barbados economy and achieving the ultimate goal of a stable economy and sustainable economic growth and development”.
To date, the Minister said, the co-operative movement has grown significantly over the years since 1952 when the first society, the St. Barnabas Co-operative Marketing Society Limited, was registered under the Co-operative Societies Act. Presently, there are 32 registered credit unions, 32 registered non-financial co-operatives and 39 registered friendly societies.
He also disclosed that the accumulated assets of financial co-operatives (credit unions) was estimated to be close to $2.4 billion dollars, with over 210,000 members and employing over 500 individuals. T
he assets of non-financial co-operatives, the Minister reported, were approximately $10.6 million dollars, with an estimated membership of 1,350 and employing 100 individuals.
“Collectively, the co-operative movement has been a source of economic and social elevation for many Barbadians as it continues to contribute to the alleviation of poverty across Barbados and to create many entrepreneurial opportunities for Barbadians in the small business sector,” Mr. Symmonds stated.