KATHMANDU, June 11: The minimum age to become a member of a cooperative has been set at 16, according to a decision made the Parliament's Finance Committee. The committee unanimously decided the minimum age which is also same age to get a citizenship certificate. The committee changed the age in the proposed bill to amend and integrate laws related to cooperatives from 18 years.
According to the existing laws, a person with citizenship certificate can be a member of cooperatives.
The committee meeting on Saturday endorsed a sub-committee report on the bill prepared by lawmaker Bharat Mohan Adhikari but with necessary amendments. The committee Chair Prakash Jwala informed that the secretariat officials had collected suggestions during discussions and those suggestions were incorporated in the bill.
This means it may take few more days to prepare the final bill and it will be tabled in the parliament for endorsement before it becomes a law.
The bill will replace the cooperative laws endorsed in the early 1990s and the sub-committee coordinator Adhikari believes the new law will really work in the changed context of increased number of cooperatives and the volume of transactions the cooperatives have. Adhikari said that the bill has defined a clear regular monitoring mechanism of cooperatives and such monitoring will be led by the Ministry of Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation.
“The new bill has taken carrot and stick approach to the cooperatives as good performers will be rewarded while wrong doers will be taken action,” said Adhikari, adding that Nepal Rastra Bank representatives will also be in its monitoring team. Lawmakers were divided on a number of issues including whether a company can be a member of the cooperatives or not. Lawmaker and sub-committee member Kamala Panta said that local organizations like clubs can be a member of the cooperative but not any companies.
Lawmaker Om Devi Malla Joshi said that those who run small enterprises and having VAT registration might be deprived of being members of cooperatives. Joshi argued that barring them to be members of the cooperatives would be against the spirit of the constitution, which states that cooperatives are also one of the three pillars of the economy.
The bill has barred cooperatives to buy shares of any company and this is believed to restrict the cooperatives from being involved in core business of common welfare amongst its members.
A citizen can only be a member of one cooperative in any particular district. A separate mechanism is also provisioned for setting reference of interest rates for the cooperatives.
Lawmaker Shankar Bhandari said that the farmers and lower-class people who are members of cooperatives cannot pay back the high interest rates that the cooperatives charge their clients.