The asset base of Sri Lankan cooperatives have increased to nearly Rs three billion (US$ 18 million)-and coops are no longer charitable organizations, Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen said addressing the launch of Asia Pacific Cooperative Development Conference by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) in Colombo on Monday.
“Cooperatives are no longer charitable organizations and they have to compete with other institutions in a liberalized market economy. Accordingly, Cooperatives may formulate proper strategic plans to sell their products and services,” Minister Bathiudeen said.
The two-day conference from 27-28 February was the first ever such ICA Conference to be held in Sri Lanka. The two day sessions will be focusing on integrating Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to cooperative systems.
In attendance were Regional Director of Asia Pacific Region of the International Cooperative Alliance Balu Iyer, Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs of Kyrgyz Republic Denair Inanalier, Chairman of the National Cooperative Council of Sri Lanka W. Lalith A. Peiris and visiting cooperative reps from 27 countries.
Addressing the inaugural session, the Minister said the conference has obviously paid its attention to Socio-economic, cultural well-being, poverty, hunger, food conservation, environment conservation etc.
The recommendations, proposals and conclusions of this conference could be implemented through the cooperative movement and be contributed to the sustainability in the region, he noted.
“At present discussions and activities are taking place around the world on SDGs due to their importance. Similarly global Co-operative movement will also find out ways and means to achieve SDGs through this largest Community based movement in the world” said Minister Bathiudeen.
He added that the Government and the Cooperative movement could jointly implement programs to achieve SDGs successfully.
The Minister remarked that further discussions about the recommendations and exclusions of the Ministers Conference are taking place and necessary action to implement them are being worked out.
“Cooperatives are no longer charitable Organizations and they have to have a considerable revenue to meet their expenses for their survival. As all of you are aware Cooperatives also have to compete with other institutions in a liberal market economy. Accordingly Cooperatives may formulate proper strategic plans taking into consideration of market situation and competitiveness to sell their businesses and services.”
He pointed out that the cooperative movement has tremendous strength to meet business challenges in the open economy and Sri Lankan cooperative sector is a good example which started 112 years ago.
“There are almost 14500 cooperatives in various productions, services, SMEs, women’s development, rural banking, insurance and farming sectors. Cooperatives are also now present in our FMCG retail sector – in Sri Lanka through “Coop City” shops. Lankan cooperative assets are a huge $1.8 Billion with another dollar one billion in savings. The membership in our cooperative system exceeds five million.”
Regional Director of Asia Pacific Region of the International Cooperative Alliance Balu Iyer praising Sri Lankan cooperative stakeholders, said the conference brings together participants of previous three sub-regional conferences.
The two-day conference will see participation from 23 countries and feature presentations from ICA members, international agencies like the ILO, UNDESA, AGRITERRA, and important Ministers from Different countries.