Engines of economic growth. Dynamic and Flexible Business Models. Excellence in marketing and Service Delivery. These are just some of the terminologies used when we think of Co-operatives. As the Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development, who has oversight for the Co-operative Movement in Trinidad and Tobago I stand proud to know that these phrases are associated with the Movement I have oversight. Every year, we join the global community on the first Saturday in July to celebrate the one billion men and women who are involved in Co-operatives Movement, a Movement which generates some one hundred million jobs. A Movement that operates in diverse sectors, including but not limited to agriculture, finance, consumer insurance and health services.
This year, the United Nations celebrates the 24th anniversary of the International Day of Co-operatives and has made sustainable development through Co-operatives its main priority through its theme, “Sustainable Societies through Co-operation.” This theme transitions well into the Co-operatives philosophy as sustainability and resilience are mantras to the Movement which proffers concern for community as one of their main guiding principles. Guided by a compass of social justice, Co-operatives are vehicles that continue to promoting decent work and decent lives for all.
Co-operatives are the embodiment of sustainable development. They are democratic, value-driven and locally controlled organizations which foster social inclusion. This is a type of organization that brings strength and solidarity, proving to be highly effective in enabling disadvantaged groups to gain their voice all while mobilizing others to pursue their economic interests and to secure social protection. Co-operatives also adhere to an all-inclusive enterprise as they cover a broad spectrum of persons including unemployed persons, the elderly, disabled and minors who all have found possibilities for social and economic participation and advancement through co-operative action and enterprise. Certainly, an organizational model that we too as citizens should strive to adopt not only in the workplace, but in other aspects of our lives.
Sustainable Development cannot be achieved without a healthy global economy that provides everyone with access to quality employment, as stable and well-paid jobs are the key to eradicating poverty. Locally, both the Financial and Non-Financial Co-operatives facilitate their members’ access to financial capital, enabling their members to secure livelihoods, create decent jobs and to access markets with the Financial Co-operative having control over $2 billion USD in assets. The Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago recognizes the significant contribution of the Co-operative Movement to sustainable development, community development and economic enhancement and remains committed to strengthening the Movement through policy development and legislative reform for the sector, which will continue to advance co-operative businesses into more sectors.
As the Minister with the responsibility for Co-operatives, I certainly endorse the concept that Co-operative Enterprises significantly contribute to build a better Trinidad and Tobago. Their resilience, testifies to their sustainability and adaptability of the cooperative enterprise and to the change in the landscape of our beloved nation.
Happy and reflective Co-operatives Day to all co-operators.
Senator the Honourable Jennifer Baptiste Primus
Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development.