Minister of Commerce and Trade, Senator Haynesley Benn (FP)

The cooperative movement in Barbados has been going from strength to strength and represents a stable financial alternative.

This view was expressed by Minister of Commerce and Trade, Senator Haynesley Benn, as he addressed the opening of a Cooperative Department’s Training Workshop yesterday.

Senator Benn revealed that credit unions, which were once featured under the Department’s portfolio, but now fell under the ambit of the Financial Services Commission, still had a vital role to play.

"I know it has been recorded as a loss, and I know it has affected the strength and the stability of the cooperative movement, but my message to you is that [you should] feel good that you’ve been able to build a structure that could be of benefit to the rest of the country," he said.

The viability and value of cooperatives were further emphasised by training facilitator at the week-long workshop, Adjunct Professor at Saint Mary’s University in Nova Scotia, Canada, Tom Webb.

"Cooperatives play an almost unseen role and an almost unappreciated role in the global economy," Mr. Webb observed, adding that he would "…suggest that with the current global instability and problems, we ought not to expect those problems to get better.?? It is almost inherent in the global economic system that it will become less and less stable."

The facilitator explained that this instability was not always a reflection on the country affected, but revealed to the interdependence of current world economies.

"We [Canada] had, in many ways, our house in order.?? Our banks were regulated – our neighbours’ banks were not.?? We lost tens of thousands of jobs because [of this]," he pointed out. ??Mr. Webb further stated that "increasingly, [in] this unstable global economy – where problems can be swept around the world in a matter of days, in fact, even in a matter of hours – we know that we cannot be immune.??

"And so, maybe the best we can do is to begin to think about what kind of economy we can build, that will be less susceptible to the ravages of the global economy…"

Cooperatives, he said, could play an even greater role than they did currently in addressing this challenge.?? He asked those gathered to consider that "cooperatives stayed stable because they are not traded in the marketplace and they are not susceptible to panic. They reflect real value."

With 2012 declared as the International Year of Cooperatives, Mr. Webb stressed that "now, more than ever, we need the opportunity to sit back and rethink the economy from a cooperative perspective, for some alternative that will give us more hope."


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