January 21, 2014
Youth urged to step up and make changes to benefit credit unions

Camillo Gonsalves, this country’s Minister of Commerce, believes that the important seeds of a post crisis rebirth lie in the next generation of credit union leaders.{{more}}

Gonsalves shared his view yesterday, while delivering the feature address at the opening ceremony of the second Caribbean Youth Leadership Development programme (CaribDE). The minister delivered his speech on the theme “Youth Leaders: Generation Next or Now.”

“There can be no doubt that the time for such a generational transformation is now, if for no other reason than the limits of human frailty,” he said.

“The duty of youth leadership is to challenge the status quo, to learn from the past, while imagining a future with horizons more vast and distant than your predecessors could possibly conceive.”

In his address, Gonsalves made reference to the global economic crisis and noted that the dotage of the global financial architecture demands a reinvention. He added that the financial system is collapsing under the weight of its contradictions.

“The global financial and economic crisis, which began in 2008 and continues today, exposes the limitations, contradictions and indeed presages the impending collapse of the exisiting international financial architecture,” the minister said.

“The Bretton Wood system and the instituations that govern our global commercial and financial relations will be 70 years old this year. The system has proven itself wholly incapable of preventing cyclical lurches into global recession and woefully impotent in regulating the rapacious profit-centred capitalism that led the entire world into the abyss of financial and economic crisis. It has laid bare the falsehood of the commercial bank that is “too big to fail” and it has attempted to institutionalize a system that privatizes profit, while socializing losses, caused in large part by reckless greed and socialization”.

Gonsalves noted that credit unions and cooperatives fared better than commercial banks in the crisis and said that in 2010, the rate of failure for commercial banks was five times that of credit unions and cooperatives.

Furthermore, he observed that this resulted in an increase in market share for credit unions, as “customers flocked from big banks to more cooperative institutions”, not only regionally and internationally, but locally.

Quoting statistics from the credit union league, Gonsalves revealed that youth savings are over EC$17.7 million in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

“The reasons for credit unions’ superior post crisis performance, relative to commercial banks and for their increase in market share for many countries, are rooted in your emphasis on value creation for the communities you serve rather than naked short term profit maximization. Your relatively straightforward operations and emphasis on service were also major contributors to your survival and success in stormy financial waters,” he said.

Gonsalves added that it is critical that the current generation step up to the plate and make the necessary changes to benefit the future of credit unions and cooperatives.

“You must leverage the central competences of your field, the elevation of a people centred approach over a profit centred one. The fostering of a role as financial educators instead of exploiters, the enabling of entrepreneurship and the private sector. The crafting of opportunities and expectations that are rooted in your nation and your citizens, rather than a one size fits all approach delineated in some distant boardroom,” he stressed.

“With these principles as your foundation, you will craft an era of success and influence for credit unions and cooperatives that your predessors could scarcely imagine. It is my belief that leaders are transitional or transformative. The times call for a transformative, creative, prepared optimistic and energetic new generation of leaders and no more so than the credit union and co-operative sector, whose legitimacy and credibility are honours that carry the responsibility of greater leadership and greater advocacy”.

As he concluded his address, the minister encouraged the participants at the workshop to become leaders instead of managers, citing that “management is doing things right,” while “leadership is doing the right thing.

“A bad idea or a poor business model, no matter how effectively managed, is still a bad idea. All of you in this room have not only the ability, but more importantly the opportunity to help craft a new financial and economic reality for your respective nations and our region,” Gonsalves said.(BK)