THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine urged Tobagonians to seek out opportunities. as the island welcomed a new credit union.
The TWCU (Telephone Workers Credit Union) Co-Operative Society Ltd opened its first branch on the island on Wednesday at the Port Mall in Scarborough.
Augustine, the feature speaker, said the island can now boast of 27 credit unions.
He said the previous 26 had an asset base of about $700 million..
“With TWCU now coming on board, it means that the asset base for credit unions on the island now moves for the first time to about $1.1 billion – and that’s domestic savings.
"Prior to TWCU coming on board, our membership in credit unions numbered around 37,000 people. I don’t know what your Tobago membership looks like, so this takes us up to 37,000 Tobagonians that have memberships in credit unions on this island. I want you to think of what that means in a per-capita kind of arrangement...With a population at the last census around 65,000, that means 50 per cent of the island have accounts in credit unions.
"That might very well be the highest concentration of membership in the credit union movement for any region anywhere in the country when you look at per-capita basis.”
This, he said, told the Tobago story – “who we are and how we like to protect our monies and how we enjoy having autonomy over our monies and what happens with our monies.”
Nevertheless, he urged, “Here is yet another opportunity for citizens to have access to education, here is another opportunity for financial counselling and financial guidance, here is another opportunity for legal assistance purchasing lands, for mortgages, for acquiring cars – and hopefully acquiring cars is not at the top of the priority list.
"Here is another opportunity for Tobagonians to own their own financial success and to be a part of it.”
He said the opening was a promise delivered, recalling that when he addressed the TWCU team at its Tobago AGM last year, he challenged it to have a full operation centre in Tobago. Though the TWCU has had membership in Tobago over the years, the credit union had previously made occasional visits to its Tobago clients.
“I felt that was an extraordinary step in the first place, because very often companies just ignore the Tobago side of their business, especially since the economies of scale here tend to be smaller than neighbouring Trinidad.
"But they made it their duty, their tradition to always include Tobago, and so I was happy to challenge them to complete the promise of having full operations here in Tobago.”
He added: “Of course, this argument about the relationship between Trinidad and Tobago and the argument about autonomy and governance and so on is not just a THA argument or a central government argument, it is a conversation about how the private sector ought to operate.”
The opening, he said is a very positive sign for the economy of Tobago at large. He said notwithstanding the challenges faced nationally and globally, the financial institution is saying it is willing to take a risk on a small island like Tobago and that is laudable.