Region Nine Co-operative Societies being regularised

– Min. Hamilton and team conduct assessment

Minister of Labour, Hon. Joseph Hamilton over the past two days, conducted an assessment of Co-operative Societies in the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo (Region Nine) as part of a process to regularise and revitalise those societies across the country.

Minister of Labour. Hon. Joseph Hamilton

Region Nine currently has 14 Co-operative and Friendly Societies. Minister Hamilton engaged members of Societies in Quarrie, Haiowa, Parishara, Toka Potarinau, Shulinab, Sand Creek, Karaudaranau and central Lethem. These groups received millions of dollars in funding under the Coalition Government’s Sustainable Livelihood and Entrepreneurial Development (SLED) Initiative to embark on community development projects.

From left: Co-operative Officer, Ms. Winetth Collymore, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of BIT, Mr. Richard Maughn, Minister of Labour, Hon. Joseph Hamilton and Region Nine BIT Officer, Ms. Indira Singh.

The Minister was accompanied by a team of technical officers, including Co-operative Officer, Ms. Winetth Collymore, Chief Executive Officer of the Board of Industrial Training (BIT), Mr. Richard Maughn, and Region Nine BIT Officer, Ms. Indira Singh.

Minister Hamilton explained that one of the requirements for benefiting from funding under the SLED programme was that groups had to be registered as Co-operative Societies. However, only one Society has completed the registration to date. He said the aim is to regularise all the Societies, which would allow for better management and accountability, as well as access to small business funding and training.

Toka Tourism project funded by SLED

“We have several groups in the Region which had applied and some presented themselves as Co-ops to gain access to SLED financing and so it’s an attempt to have them register and regularise themselves.

The Co-op Officer is here with me, who will be guiding the process of registration so that they can have access to the necessary training and supervision going forward,” Minister Hamilton told DPI.  

Minister of Labour. Hon. Joseph Hamilton engaging members of the Co-operative Society in central Lethem

Some of the groups received funds as Friendly Societies. Friendly Societies are autonomous bodies that operate solely for the purpose of Charitable/Benevolent work and are registered and supervised by the Office of the Registrar of Friendly Societies. Therefore, these Societies cannot generate profit.

Additionally, Ms. Collymore explained that Friendly Societies are provided for under Chapter 36:04 of the Laws of Guyana. They are not legally permitted to engage in economic ventures or any form of profit making. Those constitute a breach in the Legislative Provisions as well as the Constitutional framework of the rules of these Societies.

The Haiowa Multipurpose Centre funded by SLED

In the past, many groups had opted to be registered as Specially Authorised Societies. However, she said, since the implementation of the Anti-Money Laundering Legislation of 2009, Friendly Societies can no longer operate with the scope they previously enjoyed. She explained that there are no definitive articles within the Legislation that refer specifically to the limitations and the Scope of operation for Specially Authorised Societies.

However, a Co-operative Society is a partnership business engaged in any form of legal activities/business that makes a profit, provide a good or service, and provide employment for its members. It is owned by its members, each of whom invest equally through the purchase of shares and is managed by a Committee that is legally installed through election, in keeping with the Anti-Money Laundering Legislation of 2009 and enacted in 2016.

Quarrie Tourism project funded by SLED

Meanwhile, in terms of the projects, Minister Hamilton said while the concepts were all good, there are no implementation plans in place and no mechanisms to guarantee their sustainability. The projects were completed since 2019 and to date, none are fully operating.

Additionally, Mr. Maughn has recommended training for the Societies in marketing and packaging, food handling and safety, business management and book-keeping, tourism and hospitality. These training programmes will be done by BIT based on the Societies’ request.