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EDITORIAL: Credit unions an object lesson

EDITORIAL: Credit unions an object lesson

Sun, October 21, 2012 - 12:00 AM

The development of credit unions has been one of the most successful cases of social engineering ever witnessed in this island.

It is common knowledge that the movement, established for many a decade, had become stymied by non-progressive practices, such as having contributions collected by an ardent credit unionist in a valise. That was until the Tom Adams administration allowed tax deductions for contributions made to credit unions, with the declared wish that the unionists would accelerate their interest and contributions to the scheme.

That it has succeeded admirably speaks to the wisdom of marrying the tax deductibility of contributions to the immense social benefits the member might derive from his association with the collective body.

Celebrating Credit Union Day last week, we couldn’t help but glory in the economic miracle of transformation of what was nothing more than a poor relation of the present giant financial institution the credit union is today. It shows how legislation and executive power wisely used can bring about social change for the better of society.

Other examples are the widening boundaries of free secondary education by Prime Minister Errol Barrow and the Tenantries Freehold Purchase Act for which Prime Minister Tom Adams was responsible. And it is these kinds of legislation needed now to further generate availability of capital to young entrepreneurs.

Time and again, there have been many exhortations to would-be entrepreneurs, but equally often there has been the lament of unavailability of capital – a major hindrance. The credit union movement has been a useful avenue for start-up capital, but over and above this development there is need for a complete analysis of the obstacles to easier access to start-up and venture capital.

Often there is the complaint that the lending institutions demand too much security from the borrower, and that these demands may dissuade and turn back many an enterprising person who has an idea that might be the start of another business.

And if the start of small businesses is so very vital to our national development, then we would all benefit if there was freer and less burdensome access to capital. We cannot continue to hold to the traditional notions of security for the provision of start-up if we are hoping to induce more of our people to get involved in business.

The credit union movement ought to be an object lesson in how the social and economic landscape of the country can be improved by easier access to capital, but a study such as we have urged earlier would undoubtedly uncover many of the current obstacles which will have to be removed to kick-start the increase in new businesses.

Some new businesses could fail in spite of the most careful planning, but then lenders should expect such possibility and should not allow such evidence of failure to influence their approach to venture capital or seed money for deserving Barbadians determined to serve their country’s interest, as well as their own by going into business.

The credit union movement in our country has rendered yeoman service to the community, and to its members, and it has been a vehicle for social development.

We congratulate all those who do business with the movement, because it is their savings and their adherence to good thrifty habits, combined with good management practices, that have led to the success of the credit union movement. The credit union success story is also their story.

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Posted by Tony Webster 1 year, 9 months ago
I had the good fortune as a young banker, c. 1965, to witness the excellent standing of the Civic Friendly Society, with Barclays Bank ( and all the other locally-based international banks) . Mr. Edwin Layne, as head of the Civic, used to endorse many cheques, USA pension cheques, and similar foreign-issed instruments, which were remitted here, but the payees were unfortunate in that they either did not have a bank account, or while they had one, it did not have a sufficient balance to "back" a particular cheque for immediate encashment. The Civic's endorsement therefore guaranteed the cheque, which all Broad street banks were then happy to encash. Mr Layne's word (his signature) was his bond: absolute integrity, and any such instruments were encashed without question. Any that suffered non-payment eg for technical reasons, were immediately refunded by the civic whilst the error was put right. The only problem arose when Mr Layne was called away to higher duty, and we heard no more of "The Civic". I imagine that it was merged with another Friendly society or Credit Union. Mr Layne's signature on a cheque was almost mystical: in an elegant hand, and in his "signature" vibrant green ink…Gold-plated "green", for sure! May he rest very peacefully.

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