The Cooperative Movement in Myanmar

DSC 6094 72There has been much discussion in the Hluttaws about the Co-operative movement and it’s shortcomings. Some Hluttaw members even cast doubts as to whether the Co-operative Department under the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation should continue to function .
The fact is that the Cooperative Movement, has been effectively implemented in many countries, especially in Europe. The Cooperative Movement in India has been revamped and is progressing well according to an article published in one of the September 2018 issues of The Global New Light of Myanmar.
“A Cooperative is an autonomous association of people who voluntarily choose to cooperate. Its objective is to serve the economic interest of its members” according to a definition on the Internet.
The Cooperative movement is a ‘people based’ movement which is supposed to be organized by like minded people and operated by them. It particularly benefits farmers and rural producers in marketing their produce. If implemented efficiently will ensure the farmers and rural population higher incomes and create employment.
Cooperative movement was firstly introduced into Myanmar in 1904-1905. The Central Cooperative Society Ltd. was established in January 1975 and was restructured on March 29, 2002, in accordance with the 1992 Cooperative Society Law.
However in Myanmar , in spite of it’s long history of formation, the Cooperative movement has not made a good showing. Perhaps it’s because the Cooperative Culture unfortunately has not quite taken root in Myanmar. It may be because of the indifference of the general public to cooperatives due to the history of poor management of the Cooperatives. This may have been due to the weaknesses in the ‘knowhow’ of operating cooperatives, lack of ‘Cetana’ as well as self-seeking ways of some of the members of the ‘Executive Bodies’ of the Cooperative Societies at the ward/village, township, region/ state levels.
The Cooperative Society Law enables registering of cooperatives and regulates their operations. As the Cooperatives Ministry was abolished in 2016 ( probably for good reasons), the Cooperative Society Law is probably now administered by the Department of Cooperatives which was placed under the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation.
Unfortunately due to the deficiencies of those involved in the operation of the Cooperatives vis a vis the Cooperative Society Law and the weaknesses in enforcement of the law itself, there has not been efficient and effective monitoring of the Cooperatives at different levels.
The only relatively ‘successful’ cooperatives, as all government servants would agree, are the ‘loans cooperatives’ of the departments and organizations. By extension this seems to be the case of the various ‘Loans Cooperatives’ providing agricultural loans and the cooperatives providing loans for the purchase of Agricultural Machinery and Equipment. No doubt these functions are the underpinnings of agricultural and rural development. But they do newed supervision to minimize lapses on repayment of loans provided.
What is equally important is to encourage formation of Agricultural Marketing Cooperatives which would benefit directly the rural populace and enable them to systematically market their produce. Also service providing cooperatives could provide agricultural service, including hiring of agricultural machinery service to farmers who would not find it feasible to purchase such machinery and equipment due to the size of their holdings. Cooperative farming may also help farmers with small holdings to band together for more efficient growing, storing and marketing of their crops and produce.
It would perhaps be necessary to conduct a general survey (by professional organizations competent to carry out such surveys) of the existing cooperatives, particularly in the rural environments, and find out in what areas they need help and assistance. Based on the factual information obtained, workshops and seminars could be organized involving the participation of the representatives of the rural populace to come up with recommendations to overcome the deficiencies of cooperatives and assist them to be agents of development of the rural economy.

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