The Sunday Leader

Historic breakthrough for Sri Lanka Cooperatives as President includes them in National Economic Council

President Maithripala Sirisena awards a young cooperative employee winner at the 96th International Cooperative Day event in Batticaloa. Also present are Industry and Commerce Ministry Secretary, K. D. N. Ranjit Ashoka (far left); A. K. Singh, Director Cooperative Development – Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited – IFFCO (second from left); Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce, Buddhika Pathirana (fifth from left); Minister of Industry and Commerce, Rishad Bathiudeen (third from right); and the Governor of Eastern Province, Rohitha Bogollagama (far right).

The century old Sri Lankan cooperative sector received the biggest boost in its history when President Maithripala Sirisena invited it to sit in the future sessions of the National Economic Council (NEC) on July 7. Many new relief measures for cooperatives were also announced – chief among them was exempting cooperatives from income tax payments – so that the sector would be revived to play a key role in Sri Lanka’s economic reforms.

“I too began my working life as an employee of a cooperative. Cooperatives are a peoples’ movement – it’s a common platform to put forward their issues – to collaboratively voice them. National Cooperative Commission (NCC) under Minister Rishad Bathiudeen should take the lead in this,” said President Maithripala Sirisena on July 7 in Batticaloa.

The President was addressing Sri Lanka’s celebration festivities of the 96th International Cooperative Day in Batticaloa, organised by the Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen under whose purview the cooperatives fall. Joining the President and Minister Bathiudeen were Deputy Minister  of Industry and Commerce, Buddhika Pathirana; Industry and Commerce Ministry Secretary, K. D. N. Ranjit Ashoka; Commissioner of Co-operative Development and Registrar of Co-operative Societies, S. L. Naseer; Governor of Eastern Province, Rohitha Bogollagama and the visiting International Dignitary for the occasion, A. K. Singh (Director Cooperative Development – Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited -IFFCO).

“I praise Minister Rishad Bathiudeen and his Ministry for many new initiatives launched by them for this sector in the last few years. I call NCC and Minister Bathiudeen to launch even more activities in future to develop this sector. I call the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and NCC to sit with me in NEC in future to develop this sector further. I wish to resolve any other pending issues of cooperatives at NEC and will launch many other reforms for this sector in the next two-three months. Today’s event lays a stronger foundation for the future of our co-ops and I praise Minister Rishad Bathiudeen and his Ministry for many new initiatives they have launched so far,” said the President.

Minister Bathiudeen thanked President Sirisena for the support extended to this sector and announced several new reforms to revitalise it. “I am pleased to announce that with immediate effect all cooperative societies of Sri Lanka are exempted from income tax. This will result in good savings for them,” said Minister Bathiudeen.

“All cooperative employees across the country will be given an additional monthly allowance of Rs. 1,000 from next month. All the cooperative employees will be entitled to a pension from now on. Cooperatives struggling with bank loans will be given a reimbursement and our Cabinet Paper to this effect has been approved. As a result we have already paid Rs. 100 million of bank loans owed by coops, through treasury funds. Another Rs. 390 million cooperative loans will be reimbursed by us in the future with the support of Treasury. Provision of heavy vehicles to cooperatives at low rates will also be done now since HE the President has given his approval. All these new decisions have been arrived at to make this important movement a key driver in the economic growth and reform vision of the Unity government,” added Minister Bathiudeen.

“The theme for 2018 International Day of Cooperatives (IDC) is ‘Sustainable consumption and production’; creating an opportunity for cooperatives to show how they run successful businesses while respecting our natural environment and the resources it offers,” said IFFCO’s Director, A. K. Singh and added, “The global cooperative sector is already working to achieve SDGs and this year’ theme is a result of this.”

Sri Lanka’s cooperative sector completes 114th anniversary this year. With the commencement of a rural credit society in Menikhinna Village, Kandy (Central Province), Sri Lanka’s cooperatives movement began in 1904 and today 40% of Lankan population (850,000) are members of a cooperative society. There are 14,500 such societies today across the country – sporting a huge assets and savings base close to US $3 billion.

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