Labour Ministry plans to repossess unused lands under the stewardship of Cooperative Societies (Co-ops)

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana

According to Labour Minister, Joseph Hamilton, an audit exercise is ongoing to determine which interim management committees will be discontinued and lands will be utilized for other development purposes.

The activity is being executed by the ministry in collaboration with the Mahaica Mahaicony Abary – Agricultural Development Authority and Guyana Lands and Survey Commission.

In October of 2023, government had given Co-ops some time to fix their affairs, however, Hamilton revealed that the administration continues to receive complaints regarding the inadequate management of societies.

Labour Minister, Joseph Hamilton

He gave this explanation to members of the press during the ministry’s End-of-Year press conference on Tuesday, where he further revealed that the audit reports will be ready by the first quarter of 2024, just in time for Co-ops annual general meeting.

It was noted, that if during the same meeting, it is uncovered that the current management committees are not managing the affairs of the co-op properly, the Chief Co-op development officer will utilize his powers to repossess the societies.

Additionally, the audits will determine which lands will be repossessed by government.

Hamilton explained that this process will only affect multi-purpose co-ops that utilize lands for Agriculture and forestry activities.

In this regard, he reminded the public that lands managed by Cooperative Societies are leased, so ultimately the government has responsibility.

“We form an agriculture co-op we have the membership there’s a procedure and we’re seeking 500 acres of land to do rice cultivation… we have to submit a work programme, a plan. This is how we will execute this project the time span we will execute it. Most if not all of then fail in that regard and so they have broken the contract with the state entity,” the minister said.

Meanwhile, efforts are ongoing to ensure all Co-op housing schemes are regularised and each resident receives his or her land transport, regardless of whether their Co-op society is functioning or not.

This exercise is being spearheaded through a partnership between the Labour Ministry’s Co-op depart, Housing and Water Ministry and Attorney General Chambers.

Hamilton disclosed that over 50 transports have already been provided to several residents living in communities along the East and West Coast of Demerara.

“What the government is doing, is ensuring that owner of a property in a co-op scheme they be empowered… you have people that have 70 million dollars house and more in these schemes that are useless to them because the land is owned in this block as a co-op. They don’t have access to a transport that they could go monetize, they just have a building but they can’t go to the bank and say loan me some money to develop a business, or I want to send my child to university. And we’re bring that to an end, we will bring it to an end,” the minister stated.

The labour minister first indicated the government would be seeking to repossess that are held by Co-ops in January during the 2023 National Budget debates.

Since then, the Labour Ministry has been engaging many of the Cooperative Societies, according to Hamilton.

It is estimated that there are over 1, 735 Cooperative Societies in Guyana.