In November 2020, the Singapore National Co-operative Federation (SNCF) welcomed a new chief executive. Ang Hin Kee is a trade unionist who has been involved in the country’s National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) for over 15 years. We talked to him to find out more about his plans for the movement’s future.
What attracted you to the co-operative movement?
Owing to my work with the unions in Singapore, I am familiar with the role played by co-operatives and their values such as self-help and mutual assistance that enhance the cohesiveness of society. The labour movement has also set up co-operatives to provide affordable daily essentials, education and training, healthcare, recreation, and employment opportunities, as well as increase the inclusion of the less advantaged, such as the elderly and vulnerable. There’s so much synergy in our work and we can thus render so much more support to our communities.
What do you think are the biggest challenges and opportunities for the co-operative movement in Singapore?
The whole is more than the sum of its parts. It is important for us to engage all stakeholders including government bodies, unions, clubs, and people groups. For example, during the Covid-19 pandemic, we worked with the relevant government bodies to roll out initiatives to help co-operatives better respond to the challenges.
We need to provide a platform to enable more people to form co-operatives. Despite 2020 being a very challenging year, new co-operatives were formed or are in the process of being formed. They seek to inspire collaboration and innovation in the community such as providing affordable haircuts to senior citizens at nursing homes as well as vocational training and employment opportunities to vulnerable communities.
What will be your key objectives as CEO of SNCF?
One key priority is to continue to work with our co-operatives to strengthen governance and capabilities. Another priority will be to help affiliates better operate in a post-Covid-19 environment.
Co-operatives exist to benefit members and help to improve lives. Covid-19 underscores the social role of co-operatives in helping members tide over difficult times from holding prices of everyday essentials to providing special loans, monetary and other forms of donations. In sharing a common set of values and principles to enhance the cohesiveness of society, co-operatives have shown again and again the power of Singaporeans working together to ride out the fiercest storms.
Covid-19 has disrupted the old ways, changing the way people live, work and play. It also presents opportunities for the co-operative movement to help build a new normal that is more caring and inclusive. I am humbled to have this fresh opportunity to steer the co-operative sector to help businesses and individuals to adapt and thrive in these volatile times. I also look forward to working closely with our co-operatives to strengthen their businesses so that they can better serve the interests of their members and meet the needs of the broader community.