By Admin. Updated 8:24 p.m., Tuesday, July 6, 2021, Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4).
A bill for an Act to provide for the regulation of Friendly Societies and other related matters was passed in Parliament today (July 6).
The bill, presented by the government, received the support of members of the opposition.
The bill, which will now become law by proclamation, seeks to provide a legal framework for the regulation of friendly societies in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Friendly Societies have been in existence for more than 100 years in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. One of their primary role in Vincentian society has been to provide a safety net for working people to be able to provide quality death care, particularly burials for their loved ones.
Though Friendly Societies have successfully served this purpose, issues surrounding misappropriation of funds, lack of oversight, lack of regulation, and small capital bases have affected some of them, leading to their members losing all of their investments.
The new regulatory framework will, among other things, allow these societies to own properties and other assets to help strengthen their asset base.
There are over 18 registered friendly societies in existence in St. Vincent and the Grenadines with over 18,000 members and a cumulative asset base of some 12.3 million dollars, finance minister Camillo Gonsalves told Parliament.
He said that we have to protect that asset and the new law will help to do so.
Meanwhile, while providing support for the bill, some members of the opposition raised questions about how the measures will affect the operation of existing friendly societies.
In response, some members of the government, during the debate on the bill discussed measures such as the requirement for societies to have independent entities check their financial statuses.
The bill was brought to the House by Finance Minister, Camillo Gonsalves who said it was the brainchild of former Deputy Prime Minister and former member of Parliament, Sir Louis Straker.