१३ बैशाख २०८१, बिहीबार

Cooperating Out of COVID-19 Catastrophe

३ बैशाख २०७७, बुधबार
Cooperating Out of COVID-19 Catastrophe

It is high time everybody acknowledge cooperative sector as the frontline worker in combating the apprehension of virus. Some have already treaded in the path but ‘more the merrier’ is the need of the hour writes Ranjan Mani Paudyal, a training officer @ NEFSCUN…

After the official entry of Nepal into the second stage of novel coronavirus, we have seen gradual rise in the infected cases. Those who had turned a blind eye and a deaf year towards rapid multiplication of COVID-19 cases across our border, have also feared its arrival at the vicinity. At present, a segment of our society is gruesomely gripped, another dangerously distressed, the other worried and the a few unaffected but cautious.Thes variety in reasons are not merely of the pandemic but of poverty, lack of medical amenities and probability of being infected because of recklessness. As World Health Organizations (WHO), American President Donald Trump, International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB), and such have apparently warned the immediate and aftermath economic debacle posed by the lethal virus.This is severe scenario as the death toll and infected numbers are creeping up and at the time of global grief, expectations are that situation does not turn worse.The growing nuclear tendency, a by-product ultra-modernization quest of the globe, has partially come to a halt. Thanks to the outbreak of the virus, at least late realisation has come to the world that ‘collective endeavours are a must to coping up the catastrophe.’

Global Cooperatives’ Call

This is the time for the sector to best proves its agility. As cooperatives thrive in severity; be it destitution, deprivation, natural disaster or economic downturn, it is the time for the sector to stand strong, tall and deliver. Carrying forward its rich legacy, cooperatives are working tirelessly to further its philantrhropic repute. The Brussels based apex body of the global cooperatives, International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) has asked all its members to briskly lend their hands in support of respective government moves to mitigate the spread of virus. It has also requested members to stick to the universally accepted cooperative doctrines of integrity, fraterneity, togetherness, service to society,etc and display generosity in helping the needy. Statistically, cooperators cover 12 percent of the humanity and they are ready to serve the rest. Likewise, the umbrella organization of credit cooperatives of the world, US based World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) and Thailand based asian conglomeration, Association of Asian Confederation of Credit Unions (ACCU) have come front to sincerely request their member affiliates to show their preparedness to battle this out. These parent organizations of cooperatives have also established strong mechanism to reach out to members via digital platforms and new media.And cooperators round the world; irrespecitve of their geo-political situations, race, religion, class, etc have followed thier guidellines and directives in true spirits.

Domestic Endeavours

The patron of all the cooperatives of Nepal, National Cooperative Federation (NCF), has pleaded its offsprings to back the government moves in combating the the immediate and imminent threat. It has expressed absolute solidarity with the national efforts and urged cooperators to be the reliable national support system.In the identical fashion, the national federation of credit cooperatives, Nepal Federation of Credit Unions Ltd (NEFSCUN) has made a timely request to take ample precautionary measures to be safe first to save others. Recently, NEFSCU has issued 19 points guidelines for members to stick by during this turbulent time along with ‘Cooperative Service Mangament Directives During COVID-19 Pandemic-2076′

The apex body has asked members to implement risk management procedures via Risk Management Task Force (RMTF) to ensure safe and sound service to needy members, manage emergency services like savings and credit through lucid provision of human resource, safety meaures, motivation, time and adequate safety arrangements. The guidelines include conducting regular programs like raising health awareness, relief distribution, finacial and psychosocial counselling joining hands with community, local authorities and stakeholders adiding by the standard regulatory  framework. Also, the request is prioritising and ascertaining effective and optimum use of technology based person to person (P2P) finacial services via telephone, drive through teller service, remote cheque payment facility, drop box, safe doorstep facility and other social distancing friendly means. Smart mobilization of human resource by nominating Communication and Relation Officer, minimalistic staff via duty rotation, safety and motivational methods along with defined ‘working from home’ tasks are other applicable measures. The parent organization has asked to provide same interest rate on saving and credit untill the inception of lockdown. For the lockdown tenure NEFSCUN has urged to manage interest adjustment as per the result of market survery through policy revision. It calls for penal charges waiver untill a month after lockdown. In addition to  this, accomodating the facility of 10 percent rebate on loan repayment  during lockdown, extending maximum 6 months loan repayment tenure evaluating investment area and  paying capacity, maintaining safe and sound credit limit, liquidity cushion and investment period, limiting credit facility to each member  barring emergencies, discourging credit facility for more than a year and increasing digital payment limit and discounts to encourge digital transactions are other suggestions that will definitely come handy to the members.

Constitutionallly recognized as one of the pillars of national economy, the sector has so far contributed in different forms ranging from monetary assistance to creating awareness among members via regular digital updates. More significantly, it is the high time to acknowledge the sector as the frontline worker in fighting the apprehension of virus. Some have already treaded in the path but ‘more the merrier’ is the need of the hour. at this critical jucture. Eventhough the sector has not let the nation down, hopes are climbing higher as the endeavours to bring the spread of virus under control has done little wonders. Government efforts are inadequate to bring desired results so clearing out the clouds of mistrust associated with the sector due to deep-seated negative perceptions in the intellectual sphere is a must. The hiccups, results of a handful of urban-centric enterprieses boastfulfy disregarding operating principles, have unfortunately helped devlop the negative mindeset of the authorities that cooperatives are the easy medium of misappropriation of funds, confidence tricks, swindling and manipulation. Government, private sector and other stakeholders have to realize the reality (not only lip service) that economic upliftment of our nation is impossible sans cooperatives. It’s not an exaggeration that cooperatives today are not merely confined to small and sluggish initiations but to big, vibrant and motivating enterprises exceling the services of commercial and other financial institutions. Like the global spectrum the highly successful cooperatives are writing their own scripts. So, considering it’s strength, WOCCU has righlty stated that credit unoins must be considered ‘essential’ during COVID-19 crisis. It is high time our governement also pay heed to this and act under the common bond of togetherness to tackle the tragedy.

Frontline Work

Cooperative can balm the wounds of poor and needy members and community at this emergency period.It can add ‘colur’ to life. It is the best time for all the cooperators to translate the fundamental philosophy of putting pepole before profit and prioritizing members before money. Busineess is possible when life is possible. Realising this, the sector having no dearth of money, mind and muscle, must act immediately to save lives first. Post traumatic situation too, cooperatives have a lot to offer to the nation by helping revive economy. Like other developing countries that have successfully used cooperatives as a tool to combat tyranny, social injustice and superstitions, we also have the history of playing prominent part in not only battling poverty and calamities but helping the economy bounce back successfully.

At the time of crisis, it’s management goes beyond wishful thinking, it is a craft. At the time when the risk of frontline workers like medical and media practitioners is inceasing due to acute shortage of protection kits like Personal Protection Equipments (PPE), cooperators who are involved in serving humanity have to take pre-requsite measures to stay unaffected to make save others as well as make unaffected. Cooperative is also about collecting the capacity to cooperate.This is the core essence and beauty of cooperative enterprises everywhere. Besides the current trauma, there are plethoras of problems which can be successfully dealt via cooperative business model, if the government and private sectors realize its prowess at the earliest. Once again, reiterating the voice of WOCCU ‘From Credit Unions, For Credit Unions’, I as a cooperator, call for common commitment to come forth and calm the crying souls of our community in every possible way. Take time to wash your hands in a proper manner to stay away from corona infection. Clap for Cooperatives !

(The contributor, a training officer @ NEFSCUN, can be reached at rmp19nefscun@gmail,com)