The government of Sri Lanka is amending its co-operative legislation and looking to implement the country’s first national co-operative policy framework.
Sri Lanka is home to over 14,500 co-operatives which are active in multiple sectors, including banking, insurance, agriculture, and retail. With support from the International Labour Organisation, consecutive governments have been working on the national policy since 2010.
The process began when the Ministry of Internal Trade and Co-operatives, in collaboration with the National Co-operative Council of Sri Lanka, organised consultations among stakeholders at provincial level. These were followed by a national conference in 2011.
Efforts slowed down in 2014 prior to the general election but resumed eight months ago under a new government. The proposals will require the approval of cabinet and parliament.
Minister Rishad Bathiudeen announced the review of the law on the International Day of Co-operatives in July 2016.
Speaking at a consultation session at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute in November, Mr Bathiudeen thanked the ILO for supporting the co-operative sector.
The government is currently examining the existing Jammu and Kashmir Cooperative Societies Act, 1989, and the Jammu and Kashmir Self Reliant Cooperative Societies Act, 1999.
Almost eight million people in Sri Lanka are members of co-operatives, 56% of whom are women, said Mr Bathiudeen. He described co-ops as “the third economic force” in Sri Lanka, with assets of USD $1.8bn, and around 46,000 employees.
The government is looking at setting up a co-operative university, and allowing co-operatives to buy vehicles on a duty free basis.
Co-ops have a long history in the country, with the first society being set up in 1904 and the first co-operative law enacted in 1911.