Looking east, Mahathir shares a cooperative idea

Last update: 02/01/2020

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 2  -- Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has floated an idea about a successful cooperative village shop in Japan and said he wonders whether such an idea will work well in Malaysia.

Posting the story on his blog, chedet.cc, yesterday and sharing it on Facebook and Twitter today, the prime minister said the shop worked well on the island of Okinawa.

He related his story as follows:

“Okinawa is a long thin island 100 km from north to south. In the old days the people in the south found difficulty in getting supplies from the north.

“The people in the villages decided to have a shop stocked with their needs. They collected money from their village and built a shop. 

“They employed a man from the village to manage the shop. Money was provided by the villagers to stock the shop with their needs brought in from the north.

“The villagers bought their needs but did not pay immediately. Instead they themselves wrote on a piece of paper their name and the goods they had taken.

“Each time they needed goods or foodstuff they wrote on the piece of paper with their name and stuck it to a board kept in the shop.

“At the end of the month they would total up all their purchase written on their paper and pay the amount due. The money was kept in a safe.

“Later when business was not so good they put up a table and a few chairs and started selling drinks and coffee.

“Every village would have this commonly owned village shop. It was a kind of cooperative, owned and operated by the villagers.

“Today most of them have disappeared as access to their needs became easier due to better road, motorcycles and cars. The one I visited is one of the few left.

“It worked well in Okinawa. Wonder if it will work well in Malaysia.”

This is one of the many times that Dr Mahathir has talked about how the people can benefit from cooperatives.

On another occasion, on Sept 21 last year, when addressing 20,000 members of cooperative societies in Cyberjaya, he said the cooperative movement can play a major role in helping low-income households in urban and rural areas to cope with the rising cost of living.

He said the contribution of the cooperatives must not be looked at merely in terms of growing the country’s GDP but also in increasing the purchasing power of the people towards achieving the shared prosperity vision.