The Minister of Trade, Commerce, Cooperatives, ni-Vanuatu Business Development and Industries, James Bule, has taken his vision for cooperatives development to new level by challenging over one hundred members of the Ser Metrou Cooperative Society of Eton Village, to develop into Port Vila where members can push trolleys while they shop like they do at Au Bon Marche.
Undoubtedly the Minister, his Director General Roy Mickey Joy, Registrar and Director of Cooperatives Ridley Joseph and General Manager of Vanuatu Cooperatives Business Network Jack Loughman, all sing the same song about how they want to see the Cooperatives develop into the urban centres where members can shop in their cooperatives knowing that at the end of the year, they are going to receive their shares for Christmas.
Indeed there are cooperatives on Efate which are financially solid to be able to set up in Port Vila. By doing so, all members would shop strictly in their cooperatives instead of throwing away their money into the bottomless pits of super markets without receiving any dividend in return.
While the Minister delivered the challenge as ‘food for thought’ but imagine what it would mean if a chairman of a cooperative society and his committee should resolve to build their cooperative in Port Vila, then all members would shop there and harvest the result of their purchases at the end of the year.
What is more, it would mean that every vatu spent would be ploughed back into cooperative development within the country instead of throwing hard earned money into foreign businesses which would most likely transfer their dividends out of the country.
While the Minister has not elaborated on his challenge to the members, reliable sources said he was particularly impressed on his trip to Vietnam not too long ago where he visited a rice cooperative society in the city.
When he asked how many members there were, he was quoted a figure which was in the thousands! In other words, all those thousands of members shopped in the rice cooperative society.
If the Vietnamese can do it then so can ni Vanuatu cooperatives.
Asked what message Eton Paramount Chief Kas Kolou has for his villagers, he replied, “Our Ser Metrou Cooperative Society is a blessing to Eton Village.
My message to my people is for them to respect and care for their cooperative as though it were a newborn baby.
“Its opening this week represents a new page for our village and I encourage all members to shop inside and not throw their money away by shopping in Port Vila”.
A former cooperative society was operational in Eton for many years before Independence but like most former cooperatives throughout the country, it was forced to close due to land dispute issues.
Then arrived the Registrar and Director of Cooperatives to attend a yam festival in the village only this year.
The charismatic Director offered to speak during the festival and he not only encouraged them to reopen the cooperative in the village but challenged them by paying for his share and asked who wanted to join. “Before the day was over, membership climbed to over one hundred from one end of the village to the other end”, he confirmed.
That is how Ser Cooperative Society was born out of the existing tribes in the village.