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Prime Minister King meets with Co-operative League officials

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Contact: Office of the Prime Minister

Wednesday, February 18, 2009 The St. Lucia Co-operative League met recently with Prime Minister, Hon. Stephenson King to discuss issues critical to the sustainability of the co-operative sector. Central to the discussion were the Single Regulatory Unit and the New Draft Harmonized Co-operative Legislation.

The discussion proved crucial as the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank and Governments are being pressured by lobbyists of commercial banks and the Caribbean Association of Indigenous Banks for the co-operative sector to be regulated under the Banking Act.

In defense of the sector maintaining its own regulatory framework, Mr. Terrance Charlemagne, President of the Co-operative League informed the Prime Minister that during the downturn and restructuring of the banana industry, it was the credit unions and various farmers co-operative that kept the rural economy in a buoyant state. That was evident with the Rural Credit and low income housing Facility respectively, when over seven million dollars was ploughed directly into the economy. Additionally the economy is being buffered directly by the co-operative sector through the payment of approximately six million ($6,000,000) dollars annually in dividends and patronage refunds to a membership of 60,000.

The Prime Minister was informed that the existing regulatory framework for the sector has worked. He further indicated that during the massive retrenchment of workers in Barbados during the early 1990s, and the inability of the commercial banks to act, credit unions extended special facilities to assist members in dire need. Not one credit union incurred losses or needed rescue during the banking sector meltdown of the mid-1990s in Jamaica. When the banks fled Montserrat during the volcanic eruptions of 1996/7, the credit union kept its doors open and served members at home and overseas. In Dominica
and Grenada, the credit union sector held the fort during natural disasters and financial crisis experienced by these countries. The credit unions are NOT FOR PROFIT BUT FOR SERVICE.

In response the Prime Minister reiterated his commitment to fully engage the Co-operative Sector in the establishment of the Single Regulatory Unit and that after meaningful consultation with the sector, the Harmonized Co-operatives Act will be enacted during the first quarter of 2009. He also indicated that while he is a team player, he may proceed with the passage of the bill despite the wishes of the central bank and other OECS Governments if the process is being unduly delayed.

The meeting also discussed other issues of critical importance to the co-operative sector and the Prime Minister promised to meet with the League soonest.

The St. Lucia Co-operative League now awaits the Prime Minister for convening the meeting that was promised and for him to act on his words of commitment.

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