Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen (second from left) and Sabaragamuwa Province Chief Minister Maheepala Herath (second from right) at the Cooperatives Provincial Ministers’ Summit at the BMICH
The finalisation of Sri Lanka’s much-awaited and ILO-backed National Cooperatives Policy draft has been called for 29 May.
“I believe that we need to take a collaborative approach to the Cooperatives National Policy,” said Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen at an event held recently.
Bathiudeen, addressing the Cooperatives Provincial Ministers’ Summit by the Industry and Commerce Ministryand joined by many provincial cooperative ministers, also stressed that there was no secret agenda in the proposed National Policy by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, which is mandated to formulate it.
There are almost 14,500 cooperatives-in various productions services, SMEs, women’s development, rural banking, insurance and farming sectorsactive in Sri Lanka. Through ‘Coop City’ shops, cooperatives are also now present in the country’s FMCG retail sector.
“We do not have any plans to centralise administration of cooperatives or to take over (by the Central Government). The aim of the national policy is not that,” stressed Bathiudeen.
He added: “We are trying to strengthen powers of cooperatives provincial ministers in this initiative, which is the real action attempted. I believe that we need to take a collaborative approach to Cooperatives National Policy. This work was initiated 10 years before and was not launched by me. However, the cooperative officials, due to their continued interest, managed to produce this after all these years. Once this policy is completed with the agreement of all Provincial Councils, we can finalise and implement it. We thank ILO for ongoing support for this initiative.”
This national effort is supported by the Colombo office of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The draft National Cooperatives Policy is to be sent to Provincial Councils for review. The comments and feedback from the Provincial Councils will be evaluated during the Provincial Ministers’ meeting in May. Joining the session were Secretary of Ministry of Industry and Commerce Chinthana Lokuhetti and Officer in Charge ILO Colombo Indra Thudawage.
Chief Minister of Sabaragamuwa Province Maheepala Herath, addressing the conference said that he is pleased about the progress so far. “This proposed National Policy is a victory for Sri Lankan cooperatives movement,” said Chief Minister Herath.“Especially given the low funding situation, it’s a great victory. Now we need to get the consensus of all PCs.”
“The ILO came forward to support Sri Lanka to bring the country’s Co-Op sector to international standards,” said ILO Colombo Officer in Charge Indra Thudawage earlier. ILO, the only tripartite UN agency, brings together governments, employers and workers from 187 member States to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes, promoting “decent work” for all.
In Sri Lanka, the subject of Cooperatives is devolved (to Provinces) but the Ministry of Industry and Commerce is given the responsibility of formulating national/macro cooperative policies.