Sri Lanka to introduce a legislative act to strengthen $3 billion cooperative sector

July 03, Colombo: Sri Lanka, recognizing the contribution of cooperatives to the country’s economy, is taking a variety of measures to strengthen the cooperative sector and plans to introduce a National Cooperative Act and a cooperative policy are among the measures.

Commending the co-operative service in Sri Lanka, President Maithripala Sirisena said it is time to introduce a Legislative Act to strengthen the sector, which has contributed to the country’s economy with a total value close to US$ 3 billion.

Addressing the 94th International Cooperative Day celebrations held at the Nelum Pokuna Theatre in Colombo Saturday with the participation of Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen, the President said that himself being a cooperative employee at one time, is now proud to see the sector’s performance and role in Sri Lanka’s economy.

The President, approving a proposal by Minister Bathiudeen to allow cooperatives to import vehicles duty free said he will submit a Cabinet Paper to give duty free trucks to coops in 2017-2018.

Minister Bathiudeen addressing the event said as Sri Lanka’s third economic force reported total value close to three billion dollars it is set to enter the next stage of development with a variety of support measures from the government including a setting up of a cooperative university.

The Minister said plans are afoot to upgrade his National Institute of Cooperative Development (NICD) to a University level institution to become Sri Lanka’s first “Cooperative Management University” by 2018 and third such university in South Asia.

At present there are only two fully fledged such universities in Asia-India’s Rajiv Gandhi University of Co-operative Management in Assam and Malaysia’s Cooperative College, according to the Minister.

“We are also working to introduce first ever National Cooperative Policy. Given the contribution of cooperatives to the country, today I request President Maithripala Sirisena to allow each cooperative to purchase a vehicle, on a duty free basis,” the Minister said.

Speaking further the Minister said Cooperative is an important factor for rural Sri Lanka-among rural consumers, credit, finance, agriculture and livestock as it helps to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

He said the Sri Lankan cooperative system plays an important role in people’s lives as almost 8 million Sri Lankans are members of some cooperative as the sector is strong in the retail market.

“Thus is the only market system in the country with such a high number of members and 56% of them are women. Lankan co-ops employ 46000, has an overall value of $2.8 billion -that is assets of $1.8 Billion and another $1 billion in savings. In fact coops are almost the third economic force in Sri Lanka,” the Minister pointed out.

Out of the top six supermarket brands, coop-city cooperative shop is the third ranking supermarket for purchases among Sri Lankan households.

The Ministry of Industry and Commerce has allocated Rs 287.5 million to start 150 mini handloom apparel factories through the cooperative system creating 3,150 new jobs, according to Minister Bathiudeen.

At present there are 14,454 cooperatives in various productions services, SMEs, women’s development, rural banking, insurance and farming, active in Sri Lanka and a majority of them are reporting profits with only a few at break-even and even a less number making losses.

More than 1200 members of Lankan cooperative system as well as Provincial Cooperative Ministers and Secretary to Ministry of Industry and Commerce TMKB Tennakoon were also present at the occasion.

An awards ceremony was also held for students who took part in art, essay, and drama competitions held in line with the International Cooperative Day.

Source: Colombo Page. Date: July 3, 2016