By Klieon John

St. Kitts Reporter

St. Kitts recently had the pleasure of hosting another event of outstanding international capacity. On Friday October 12, 2007 scores of representatives gathered at the Royal St. Kitts Marriot Hotel for the fifth Annual OECS Credit Union Summit, under the theme Re-engineering the OECS Credit Union System for Sustainable Development.

Credit union members from the National Co-operative Credit League were present. Countries represented included Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines as well as St. Kitts and Nevis.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands, Housing, Agriculture, Fisheries and Cooperatives, Dr. Hermia-Morton Anthony, spoke at the summit, giving advice on how to enhance development and ensure sustainability of the organization.

“The theme for this summit is a very dynamic theme and one that is reflective of an organization that is ready and willing to embrace change, including the diversification of its portfolio.

“Credit unions have been described as financial institutions owned and controlled by the members who use its services and share common bonds such as employment, residence, types of work, etc. They are not for profit and are there to provide a safe and convenient place for the members to save and borrow. In your deliberations, I want you to think of your members who have built the credit union. The members are the owners. The benefits of ownership should be returned to them. Pure and competitive service must be provided.

“Loyalty in today’s world does not come easy because members are shopping around for the best rates and comparing you to banks. You must always remain accessible to your members especially those in the lower income brackets. Credit unions are uniquely different to banks. Each member is an equal owner who has one vote at the annual general meeting regardless of the value of the share. Credit unions are non-profit institutions and are managed by boards.

“These things that make you so different should be foremost in your minds. If you hold on to your philosophy and history, sustainability of your credit unions across the OECS will never be in doubt.

“As you discuss the re-engineering process for your sustainable development, be reminded that good government is an essential key ingredient. Remember transparency and accountability. Education of members, employees and elected officials must be an on-going process. As the movement develops, so should the legislation, which governs the operation. Effective legislation is key to your development.”

She then went on to pledge the commitment of the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis in assisting in the growth and development of credit unions within the region and wished those gathered successful deliberations for the summit.

Dr. Timothy Harris, minister of foreign affairs, delivered a speech where he urged credit unions to take an active part in the sustainable development of their region by encouraging as well as helping its members, especially those in the lower income bracket, to embrace the prospect of self-employment and self-improvement. He also suggested that they keep informed and positively involved in national policy.

Addresses were also made by the president of the St. Kitts Co-operative Credit Union, Yvonne Charles, president of the Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions (CCCU) as well as the chairman of the board of directors of the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), Melvin Edwards.

The member countries then went into a weekend of deliberations on how best to improve the operation of credit unions across the region.