Cooperatives key to battling poverty in S Asia

Kathmandu, September 19 :

South Asian experts at a regional conference being held in Lalitpur district on ‘Rural Financing Institutions and Cooperatives’ have stressed that the region needs to expedite cooperative movement for reducing high levels of poverty. Various experts presenting papers today emphasised that all governments in the region need to focus on poverty through empowering poor people with easy access to credit.

Participating member countries at the conference are India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Maldives who are representing their countries’ financial institutions including, officials from Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

The conference is being held under the aegis of Center for International Cooperation and Training in Agricultural Banking (CICTAB) which was initially established by India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal with a mission to provide easy access of credit to the poor.

Speaking at the five-day long conference, Dr Bhola Nath Chalise, former government secretary and board chairman of Rastriya Banijya Bank (RBB) said that the programme would allow exchange of views, including knowledge transfer between member states of the region as to poverty reduction issues in the South Asian region.

He expressed concerns over the fact that South Asia is considered the home of poverty where people are suffering from extreme poverty for which sufficient efforts from governments in the region are required.

Bir Bikram Rayamajhi, deputy governor of Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB), said that the conference would turn out to be a productive one in the field of rural financing and cooperative movement targeting poverty reduction issues. Rayamajhi said that the rural populace still does not have easy access to credit that has affected people a lot. He said there is a gap between demand and supply in rural credit.

Yogeshwore Pant, general manager of Agricultural Development Bank Ltd also observed that poverty has been deep-rooted not only in Nepal but in the South Asian region. In this context, there is a need to develop self-sustainable micro-finance institutions at the grass-root level to deliver credit cost-effectively and in a financial viable and sustainable manner.

D Ravi , associate consultant, CICTAB Pune, India called on all member countries to expedite cooperative movement with effective financing mechanisms to reduce poverty.

Dr Mahendra Shrestha, cooperative expert mentioned that modern cooperatives in South Asia first originated in the Indian sub-continent in 1904 and in Sri Lanka in 1911. He expressed concerns that in Nepal there is no national policy for strengthening and promoting cooperatives.

Even in India, cooperatives are facing the problems of weak infrastructure facilities, restrictive provisions in state cooperatives and lack of sufficient progress in introducing improved technology parameters.