OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES
Co-operatives have real potential to expand financial inclusion in Myanmar. They operate throughout the country and are active in rural and remote areas. Though many are small, they achieve scale through township, district and national affiliations. Co-operatives serve over three million members but they are little studied and poorly understood. Few actors outside of the Department of Co-ops are engaging co-operatives to help them fulfill their potential. The co-op sector has use of nearly $400 million USD of loan capital through a government-to-government negotiated loan from China's Export-Import Bank known as Exim. These funds are an important source of low cost borrowing for farmers and a significant source of revenue for co- operatives.
However, this is often insufficient and/or out of step with agricultural cycles, leading farmer-members to borrow from informal lenders or take inputs on credit from suppliers with high effective rates of interest.
The Exim loan agreement expires in 2024. To maintain and increase lending capacity co-ops must intensify deposit mobilization and investigate alternate sources of external capital. At the same time, co-ops should modernize their management, operations and governance, to rebuild trust and credibility in the marketplace.
will support the emergence of sustainable co-operative financial institutions at the township level that will provide demand-driven services to members by:
- training co-operative board and staff, equipping co-operative branches, and strengthening policies and internal controls;
- creating a guarantee fund to facilitate lending from state/private banks to township co-operatives for on-lending to primary co-operatives;
- supporting the mobilisation of voluntary savings through financial education, new product development, marketing campaigns, competitive rates, and promotional incentives;
- introducing a liquidity facility to meet deposit withdrawal demands and build member confidence;
- designing demand-driven agriculture-related term financing, sequenced to agricultural cycles, to reduce the average borrowing costs of farmer members; and
- developing marketing strategies to expand and diversify membership.
MyFINANCE focuses on the effective demand for financial services by individual women and men members of co-operatives through market research and baselines. It also focuses on the sustainable supply of these financial services through existing co-operatives. To ensure financial sustainability there will be an emphasis on rates, marketing, mobile collections, and setting up a special line of credit to ensure sufficient liquidity so that members can access savings on demand. This in turn will increase member confidence in co-operatives, as confidence is the key to savings mobilization. Township Co-operatives will be trained to price loan products in a similar fashion to cover the costs of default, administration and inflation.
This project will be delivered by a team of co-operative and financial inclusion experts with experience working in Myanmar and other emerging economies, mobilised by the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) in partnership with the Central Co-operative Society (CCS) of Myanmar.
MyFINANCE draws on CCA's 40-years of experience with rural and co-operative development in countries such as Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Mongolia. It also draws on CCA and CCS's experience with creating an agriculture producers' co-operative in Minbu Township in 2015, and CCA's research into the Myanmar Co-operative sector in 2013.
ABOUT OUR PARTNERS
CCS is the apex organisation for co-operatives in Myanmar. Founded in 1905, today it comprises 22 unions, 424 federations and 39,898 primary societies.
LIFT is a multi-donor fund established in Myanmar in 2010 with generous contributions from Australia, Denmark, the European Union, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. From the private sector, the Mitsubishi Corporation is a donor. LIFT is working to ensure that Myanmar's rural economic transformation is inclusive. LIFT is managed by UNOPS.