Singapore Minister backs the strength of co-op business model

The Singapore co-operative movement was highly praised by Mr Chan Chun Sing, Acting Minister, Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports at their International Year of Co-operatives Regional...

The Singapore co-operative movement was highly praised by Mr Chan Chun Sing, Acting Minister, Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports at their International Year of Co-operatives Regional Conference on 3 October.

In his speech, Mr Chun Sing said he was “honoured” to take part in the event and explained: “I am confident that the co-operative movement will stay resilient and continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of the members.”

Referencing the Singaporean co-operative movement, he explained there were 87 co-operatives serving around 1.4 million members in industries such as supermarkets, insurance and childcare.

He added: “In their own quiet and unassuming ways, they contribute to the economy, create jobs, help to reduce poverty and promote social integration.”

Singapore is home to a number of successful co-operatives including NTUC Income, the only insurance co-operative in the country, and the retailer NTUC Fairprice, both of whom are listed in the International Co-operative Alliance Global 300 list of top ranking co-ops.

Quoting the Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, who said: “social safety nets have to be coupled with self-reliance and resilience”.

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Mr Chun Sing said: “Self-reliance and resilience are the very values that co-operatives embrace and promote. Co-operatives strive to meet the collective economic and social needs of their members.”

He added: “Co-operatives also aim to build character and self-esteem in the young. On this front, Singapore National Co-operative Federation (SNCF) has been reaching out to young individuals in secondary schools, junior colleges, the Institute of Technical Education and polytechnics by holding road shows and assembly talks.”

Singapore has done a lot to celebrate the IYC, this included releasing a children’s storybook series on co-operation. One of these: ‘A Very Big Storm’ will be stocked in the Rochdale Pioneers Museum shop.

The Minister carried on by stating that decisions should always be made in the interests of the members and encouraged co-ops to apply for grants to help them grow. He said: “While co-operatives seek to build up or maintain their hardware in good condition, there should be equal or perhaps higher importance placed on the software – the people.”

“Co-operative leaders and employees should also continually upgrade themselves and be open to new but prudent practices.”

He finished by saying that 2012 was an “exciting year for co-operatives”.

The Chairman of the SNCF also made a speech at the conference. He said: “As we celebrate the success of co-ops here in Singapore, we hope that the co-operative model can be adopted, perhaps in partnership with the Government, to address some of the social challenges that we are facing today.

“These include an ageing population, health care needs and costs, low birth rates, and higher expectations of a young populace aspiring to a higher quality of life.”

The conference took place in Suntec City, Singapore and over 800 leaders of co-operative, charity and social enterprise sectors from across the region attended the event.

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