Credit Unions to make Government’s Housing goal a reality

Chaguanas, Trinidad – October 14, 2020: The Central Finance Facility (CFF) held its annual Budget Breakfast meeting on October 8, 2020 themed “Economic Stability Post Covid-19: A Review of the 2020/2021 National Budget”. The feature address was delivered by the Honourable Pennelope Beckles, Minister of Housing and Urban Development who encouraged credit unions to take advantage of the opportunities presented in the Budget through activities such as granting members access to loans for housing and construction business ventures. In this regard, the Central Finance Facility reaffirms its commitment to working with Government towards achieving its housing goals so that our members can benefit.

Over 30 participants from 12 local credit unions attended the event which was held via zoom, from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm. This virtual Thought Leadership event was aimed at discussing and examining the Budget’s potential impact on the Credit Union movement and society in general, particularly those that focus on economic diversification, and exploring avenues where the Co-operative Credit Union sector can support the Government’s initiatives.

Minister Beckles highlighted Government’s key projects in the 2020/2021 Budget that will be implemented by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. The Minister also pointed out that the level of construction activity expected would act as a driver in jumpstarting the economy and serve as a catalyst for promoting development in the housing and urban revitalisation portfolios. She reiterated Government’s commitment to protecting the most vulnerable and to providing quality, affordable shelter options to low/middle income families and urged the Credit Union fraternity to take advantage of the opportunities which would be beneficial to its members. These opportunities include the housing programmes, projects and initiatives outlined in the budget for developing residential lots, construction of housing units for purchase/rent/lease and the provision of affordable home finance mechanisms.

Minster Beckles stated that the Government will embark upon the transformation and revitalisation of urban centres through the Urban Upgrading and Revitalisation Programme (funded in part by IADB). Part of this plan will include socio-economic development programmes to encourage business opportunities and foster entrepreneurship, particularly among young persons and female heads of households. She gave the assurance that the Government aims to construct and deliver 25,000 new housing units on State lands over the next 10 years. The Housing Development Corporation (HDC) will engage small and medium contractors from within communities to undertake maintenance and refurbishing works in existing housing developments – this would generate employment for small and medium contractors as well as skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labourers.

Participating in the panel discussion were Dr. Marlene Attzs, Development Economist and Lecturer, University of the West Indies (UWI), Dr. Vaalmikki Arjoon, Lecturer, Finance, UWI and former Minister of Public Utilities Mr. Robert Le Hunte. Dr. Attzs contribution focused on the Budget’s impact on the national economy and economic development plans. She provided her perspective in the areas of Agriculture, Manufacturing, SME focus and Digitalisation. Dr. Attzs emphasized that the youth should get involved in Agriculture to contribute blood and energy into the development of the economy.

Dr. Arjoon provided meaningful insight on the need for diversification in Trinidad and Tobago. He encouraged credit unions to continue to make loan acquisition easier since they are reputed for having excellent relationships with their members–knowing them personally unlike the banking institutions. As a result, the social and economic impact of these relationships is much greater.

The final speaker, Mr. Robert Le Hunte, who is no stranger to the Credit Union movement suggested that the role of the Co-operative movement in supporting Government’s initiatives was ‘getting back to its core’. He stated that in essence, the aim is to bring people together, empower them and work collectively to build communities. He highlighted the necessity for credit unions to reexamine their value proposition and work more closely together to absorb the risk which smaller credit unions will not be able to accept as individual units.

Credit Unionists were reminded by Mr. Le Hunte that in this new society, the role of credit unions and cooperative society is needed more than ever since the movement in itself is about community development. This was aptly supported by Dr. Attzs who stated that the journey ahead for Trinidad and Tobago, was not a sprint but rather a marathon requiring a collaborative effort. The call for unity was accentuated by CFF’s President Ms. Letitia Telesford as this is the cornerstone of the Central Finance Facility (CFF) – Cooperation Among Cooperatives”. In the spirit of cooperation and partnership, the CFF gives its assurance that it will work with interested peoples’ organizations to ensure participation in the privatization of the operations of Port of Spain and Trinidad & Tobago National Petroleum Marketing Company Limited.