A-Musings: A Credit to the Nation

Musings are thoughts, the thoughtful kind. For the purpose of these articles, a-musings are thoughts that might amuse, entertain and even enlighten.

A Credit to the Nation

Every now and then, you come across something, meet someone, hear about something that makes you stop and think, and suddenly you realize that this is what it’s all about. For the past few days I have been involved with a number of people who work at, and are members of, a very special organization, and each day, after I have arrived home, I have spent a little time walking the dogs and thinking about the things I have learned, the people I have met, and how different Saint Lucia would be if everyone, our so-called leaders included, were to embrace the beliefs, practices, values and philosophy of the folks at the Saint Lucia Workers’ Credit Union.

As part of the celebrations for Credit Union Month, and in particular Credit Union Day, which fell on Thursday October 16th this year, The Saint Lucia Workers’ Credit Union has embarked upon a project to record its beginnings and recognize the contributions of those members who toiled mightily and tenaciously to make a reality of their dreams of a financial institution that would work towards the benefit of its members, and make those members its owners. At the same time, the Saint Lucia Workers’ Credit Union seems bent upon making what to some might be “Saint Lucia’s Best Kept Secret” into the best asset available to the people of Saint Lucia.

I’m sorry – well, you know I am really not sorry at all, but it is the sort of thing you have to say – if I sound over effusive, but, after a quarter of a century of pretty consistent, disappointingly predictable performances from the public sector and certain Ministries in particular, this week has been a tonic of potent efficacy – I might, if I wanted to go overboard, even describe Credit Unions as the elusive panacea for many of Saint Lucia’s ills.

Now, as readers of these A-Musings will know, this is about the point where I digress and start to talk about things you probably never wanted to know. In Greek mythology, Panacea was the goddess of universal remedy. She had four sisters: one was the goddess of health, cleanliness, and sanitation, another was the goddess of recuperation from illness, the third was the goddess of the healing process, and the fourth was the goddess of beauty, splendor, glory, magnificence, and adornment. Of Panacea’s four brothers, one had a flair for diagnostics, and another was a master surgeon.

Panacea was said to have a potion with which she healed the sick, which gave rise to the concept of a panacea, a substance to cure all diseases. Figuratively a panacea also solves large, multi-faceted problems, which is exactly what I believe the Credit Union movement can do.

The Saint Lucia Workers’ Credit Union has its roots in the Saint Lucia Workers’ Union. Way back then, and we are talking about almost 40 years ago, Cable and Wireless was one the country’s main sources of employment and many of today’s leading citizens started their working lives with the company – and many stayed on for decades. The employees of C&W and The Voice newspaper came together to form the Saint Lucia Workers’ Credit Union.

From what I gather, a credit union might appear to be almost too good to be true. Its members must have a common bond that binds them together into a union. Members own the union. There are no outside shareholders, no foreign owners; the Members themselves own the union, which more or less ensures that members will take a more active interest in the running and wellbeing of the institution.

Then there is the question of democracy; each member has one vote. It matters not whether you have a million dollars or a hundred dollars, you are all equal when it comes to voting.

Obviously, credit unions are run by professional staff, managers, clerks, tellers, accountants and so on, but the Board Members who set policy are all elected from within the membership, and they are all volunteers. A credit union is truly a democratic institution led by its members for the good of its members, and it works. Throughout Saint Lucia, credit unions are going from strength to strength, their memberships are growing and their coffers are full to the brim.

Old fashioned me believes that this country would be a far richer place, an even finer place to live, if the guiding principles of the credit unions, the binding familiarity of the unions, the belief in working for the common good, and the strength in solidarity were to imbue the very fabric of all aspects of our lives. Check out your nearest credit union. Try it, you’ll like it.

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