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Definitions and Scope

Target Community Asset: Cooperatives

Co-ops are democratically run for-profit entities where people voluntarily unite to achieve a common social or economic aim. Co-ops operate on principles of self-help and mutual assistance, and have social missions that benefit their members or society at large (Annual Report on the Co-operative Societies in Singapore (for Financial Year Ended 31 March 2017)).

"Cooperatives, owned by members, are not driven to make big profits for shareholders but to create the best value for its members and customers. Ownership is shared and decisions are made democratically" Dolly Goh, CEO of SNCF (ST 20 Jul 2015)

Types of Cooperatives

Consumer Cooperatives

Producer Cooperatives

Worker Cooperatives

Sanjay Perera, editor of Philosophers For Change, an online journal on alternative socioeconomic paradigms wrote an op-ed on Workers' Self-Directed Enterprises (ST 14 Feb 2015)

In Singapore, Co-ops are classified into three categories by the Registry:

1-Consumer and Services Co-ops

Consumer and services co-ops provide goods and non-financial services to their members while fulfilling social mission(s). These co-ops protect the economic interests of their members through their activities, such as providing employment opportunities, selling goods or supplying tailored services on a co-operative basis. The total assets held by 56 consumer and services co-ops amount to approximately $9,121 million

2-Credit Co-ops

Credit co-ops take in deposits from and give out loans to their members. They have a fiduciary duty to their members to exercise prudent oversight over their deposits. Currently, there are 24 credit co-ops of which 1 is under liquidation. The table below shows the key financial figures for the 23 credit co-ops in Singapore for the financial year ended 31 December 2016 / 31 March 2017

3-School Co-ops

The 4 school co-ops in Singapore provide students in secondary schools or junior colleges with bookshops and/or platforms to expose students to entrepreneurship through businesses. The total assets held by school co-ops amount to $800,000, with the largest school co-op holding $390,000 in total assets.

Statistics on Cooperatives

There were 1,468,900 members in 84 co-ops which hold $10,115 million in total assets as at 31 March 2017 (‘FYE2016’).(Annual Report on the Co-operative Societies in Singapore (for Financial Year Ended 31 March 2017))

Benefits of Cooperatives

"Football club FC another example of how a cooperative - owned and run by 175,000 members who are mainly fans - has produced super results. The club...scores points by giving priority to youth development and fan welfare above financial gains. This is best exemplified by its cheap tickets. The average cost of an adult season ticket is just £75 (S$160), and the club pays a charity, Unicef, €1.5 million (S$2.2 million) a year to sponsor its own shirts. By comparison, top English clubs, such as Manchester United, receive £20 million a year in shirt sponsorship, while Arsenal charges at least £900 for a season ticket" Dolly Goh, CEO of SNCF (ST 20 Jul 2015)

"Credit cooperatives - which have gone through several financial crises unscathed as compared with larger financial institutions - offer the lowest unsecured loan interest rates of about 6 per cent to 8 per cent a year" Dolly Goh, CEO of SNCF (ST 20 Jul 2015)

Legislation and Regulations

Co-ops in Singapore are regulated by the Registry of Co-operative Societies, under the Co-operative Societies Act (Chapter 62) and Co-operative Societies Rules 2009.

In Singapore, the Co-operative movement is closely lined to the labour movement. Co-op contributions to the CCF for the financial year ended 31 March 2017 was $3.3 million and co-op contributions to the SLF for the financial year ended 31 December 2016 was $65.9 million Annual Report 2017

Desired impact for target group

Needs of Co-operatives

Need for high governance standards, especially of credit co-ops

Existing Resources

Code of Governance for credit co-ops issued on 17 Oct 2016, coupled by training on the Code

Grant for Outsourced Internal Audit – Internal auditors can detect irregularities early, facilitate timely corrective actions or recommend improvements to a credit co-operative’s internal controls. Hence, this grant was introduced in October 2016 to provide co-funding to credit co-ops to outsource their internal audit functions to professional firms (See Annual Report 2017).

Gaps and Their Causes

Possible Solutions

Need for greater awareness of co-operative movement

Existing Resources

International Co-operative Day – In July 2016, SNCF held exhibits and co-ops shared stories of the history of the co-op movement in Singapore.

International Credit Union Day – In October 2016, SNCF organised roadshows at two offices where three credit co-ops shared stories, promoted their services and recruited members.

Journey Wall Roving Exhibition (‘JWE’) – SNCF brought the JWE to 14 schools and Institutes of Higher Learning to showcase the history of the co-op movement in Singapore.

Co-op Hot Shots 5 – SNCF organised 5th edition of their photography competition, Co-op Hot Shots 5, where photos reflected co-op values.

See Annual Report 2017

Gaps and Their Causes

Possible Solutions

Need for capability building

Existing Resources

International Co-op Conferences – SNCF arranged for delegations of co-ops to attend international co-op conferences, which allowed them to meet international co-operators to learn from their experiences and best practices.

Training Courses – SNCF conducted courses and provided training materials to improve the co-ops’ governance and raise their capabilities. The courses covered topics such as governance, financial accounting and induction programmes, amongst others. There were about 1,500 attendees attaining 6,400 training hours for FYE2016.

See Annual Report 2017

Gaps and Their Causes

Possible Solutions

Need to improve the ease of starting a co-op

Existing Resources

Grants for New Co-ops: – In the financial year ended 31 March 2017, $48,000 worth of New Coop grants were disbursed to provide financial assistance to the new co-ops with strong social missions (Annual Report 2017).

Gaps and Their Causes

Possible Solutions

Need for adequate operational support

Existing Resources

Shared Services offered by SNCF - IT, marketing, bookkeeping & accounting

Gaps and Their Causes

Possible Solutions

Resource Directory

Government & National Association

Registry of Co-operative Societies (MCCY)

Dr Ang Hak Seng is Executive Director, Registry of Co-operative Societies

Central Co-operative Fund (CCF)

The CCF is used to further co-op education, training, research, audit and for the general development of the co-op movement in Singapore. It derives its income from co-op contributions.The Co-operative Societies Act requires co-ops to contribute 5% of the first $500,000 of their annual operating surplus to the Central Co-operative Fund (‘CCF’), and 20% of any operating surplus in excess of $500,000 to either the CCF or the Singapore Labour Foundation (‘SLF’).Annual Report 2017

Singapore National Co-operative Federation

Funded by CCF. Also serves as Secretariat to the CCF Committee. SNCF offers services including training, shared services, CCF grants and networking opportunities. It also serves as the collective voice representing the co-op movement on local and international platforms Annual Report 2017

Consumer Cooperatives

NTUC Cooperatives

NTUC Fairprice - groceries

NTUC Income - insurance

NTUC First Campus - preschools

In 1969, then Deputy Prime Minister Goh Keng Swee challenged the NTUC labour movement to set up cooperatives for workers that could compete with private enterprises. A year later, in 1970, it set up its first cooperative, NTUC Income, which made insurance within the reach of lower-wage workers. Next came FairPrice, which moderated the cost of essential goods. Dolly Goh, CEO of SNCF (ST 20 Jul 2015)

NUS Coop

Set up in 1969 by Student Liaison Officer because of the escalating prices of books and capital raised though selling membership shares to staff and students.

Credit Cooperatives

Singapore Government Staff Credit Cooperative