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Prime Minister Says Credit Union is Now a Formidable Force

Originally posted on Jamaica Information Service- see article here

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness (left), has a special greeting for young Mount Alvernia Prep and Kindergarten student, Tejean Dehaney, on arrival at the media launch of the Gateway Co-operative Credit Union (2017) Limited, at the Montego Bay Cultural Centre, Sam Sharpe Square, on June 7. At centre is member of the Gateway Co-operative Credit Union, Errol Anattoo.

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, says the credit union movement has become such a formidable force that it is now ranked as the largest membership organisation in the country.

Mr. Holness, who was speaking at the media launch of Gateway Co-operative Credit Union (2017) Limited at the Montego Bay Cultural Centre on June 7, added that with the movement comprising one million members, it also rivals the number of depositors and accounts in commercial banks.

“With $73 billion in savings, $64 billion in loans and $95 billion in assets, it is clear that credit unions are a powerful institution in Jamaica and have been meeting a clear demand,” Mr. Holness noted.

The Prime Minister said the guiding structure of credit unions enables these institutions to develop financial products that are tailored to their members.

“They also play a significant role in supporting education, training, housing, micro and small enterprises, and generally supporting the economic development of Jamaica,” he said.

Mr. Holness further noted that credit unions, at their core, are focused on communities and play a key role in fostering greater access to financial services.

“Gateway Co-Operative Credit Union services will reflect the demands of its members, particularly those from St. James and Hanover. I also see where they have drawn from Trelawny and St. Elizabeth with members,” he said.

Gateway Co-operative Credit Union Limited was formed through a merger of the Montego and Hanover Co-operative Credit Unions on January 3, 2017. As a single entity, Gateway is now the fourth largest credit union in Jamaica, boasting membership of approximately 70,000 and total assets of $6.1 billion.

The Prime Minister pointed out that the Government is firmly committed to financial inclusion and that credit unions, with their great penetration, play a critical role in achieving this and also “driving our growth agenda”.

“Jamaica’s connection to the co-operative credit union is rich. Before they were formalised, Jamaicans were already practising co-operative banking informally through the partner system. Jamaicans instinctively understand the value of using a collective mechanism to expand their finances. Credit unions are a reflection of this instinct… people helping people,” Mr. Holness said.

The Prime Minister noted that the Credit Union Reform process, which started almost 16 years ago, included a decision in 2015 to have primary legislation to regulate the credit union sector, giving direct supervision of credit unions through the Bank of Jamaica.

“I have been paying close attention. I don’t like to get too much into the regulatory issues, especially where there are statutory authorities to do this. However, anything that involves one million people and $95 billion in assets, the Prime Minister has to take account,” he said.

Mr. Holness said he was determined that before any legislation was passed, it was incumbent that dialogue be had with the Credit Union League to discuss the intricacies surrounding regulations.

“The legislation started before we became the Government, so I wanted to be clear on both the intention and the process and to be satisfied that, whatever we were doing, we were not about to make enemies of one million persons,” he added.

The Prime Minister said the meetings and dialogue have been very respectful, and to the point where there is now a climate of trust between all parties.

The Prime Minister said he was also mindful that for 70 years, when people were locked out of the formal banking system, it was the credit union that filled the gap in providing credit for the average Jamaican citizen.

Mr. Holness said that from what he has seen, the new thrust will be that whatever regulations are passed, they will, in no way, disrupt the normal operations of the credit unions.

Garwin Davis

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