Thursday, December 13, 2012

Government to set interest ceiling for cooperatives

The government is planning to set the upper limit for the interest being offered by cooperatives. The Department of Cooperatives has been doing homework to set the interest rate soon, said registrar of the department Kedar Neupane.
"Interests being offered by cooperatives are either equal or more than that being offered by commercial banks," he said, adding that the ceiling will be applicable for both deposit and lending.
The department decided to take action because of the rise in instances of savings and credit cooperatives running away after collecting millions from people. "The new directive will be introduced soon to control the trend," said Neupane.
Currently, commercial banks have been offering an average six per cent interest on deposits, but cooperatives have been offering up to 16 per cent interest. People are attracted towards high interests and have deposited huge amounts of money in cooperatives, he said.
The cooperatives have been mobilising more deposits than the development banks and finance companies, which have Rs 127.30 billion and Rs 76.11 billion worth deposits, respectively.
One of the bigger and troubled cooperatives, Guna Cooperatives had only Rs 20 million paid-up capital in the fiscal year 2010-11.  Guna cannot mobilise more than Rs 200 million deposits, according to the regulation that states that savings and credit cooperatives cannot mobilise deposits more than 10 times the paid-up capital.
But Guna had mobilised Rs 321.99 million — Rs 121.99 million more than permitted level — despoits in the last fiscal year 2011-12. Similarly, it had lent Rs 346 million, which was more than the deposits.
Similarly, Oriental Cooperatives had mobilised Rs 3.5 billion deposits and Exim Cooperatives had mobilised Rs 470 million deposits, whereas they were all hugely exposed to real estate sector against the universal norms of cooperatives movement.
Though, the government had been time and again promising to regulate the mushrooming the cooperatives, the political pressure from CPN-UML and UCPN-Maoist made it difficult to monitor and regulate them by forming a second tier regulatory authority.
Though a recently formed Ministry of Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation has forwarded a draft of the National Cooperative Policy 2012 to the cabinet for approval, it has been balmed for less homework which will make the third pillar of the economy is going collapse.
Weak monitoring mechanism coupled with government's apathy before declaring cooperatives third pillar of economy has not only fuelled irregularities in the cooperatives sector but also encouraged the 'foul players' to swindle people's hard earned money.
The Cooperatives Act 1991 prohibits cooperatives from publishing advertisements about interest and other offers in the media but big cooperatives — that have mobilised billions in deposits — have not only flouted the rule but also misued the public money by investing on realty sector.
According to the department, about a dozen cooperatives in Kathmandu valley are facing problems in returning deposits due to huge investments in the realty sector. "People blacklisted by banks have been fueling problems in cooperatives," said Neupane without elaborating on it. "We are also building measures to check that."
National Cooperatives Association has vouched to solve the problem by identifying the actual situation. "We have developed a committee to support problematic cooperatives," said president of the association Keshav Badal.
Similarly, president of Nepal Association of Savings and Credit Cooperatives Minraj Kandel said that his organisation will establish a risk fund to support savings and credit cooperatives.
The Department of Cooperatives’ revealed that cooperatives across the country had mobilised deposits worth Rs 139.54 billion in the last fiscal year.
Currently, there are 26,501 cooperatives across Nepal, including 11,851 saving and credit cooperatives. In last fiscal year 2011-12, some 3,200 new cooperatives were opened, including 854 saving and credit cooperatives, but lack of manpower and proper monitoring agency with technical support has given the cooperatives bad name.


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