Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Coop in Crisis

“Estamos en crisis” “We are in a crisis” is a common phrase fluttering around the coop these days. I consider it a valid statement seeing as I have just learned my Coop’s financials are in complete shambles. And by shambles I mean we’re straight up broke. The sad thing is no one really knows exactly where the money went. I don’t assume fowl-play, just poor planning and management by the Coop Directors. Oh, and it doesn’t help that our treasurer doesn’t read or write (but its totally ok because he says, “its all up here” with a point to the noggin).

I’m going to try to explain what has happened as best as I understand it. I think this will be a good lesson for you all on third world money management. Ok so, lets back-up a bit to November when I arrived in Casas Viejas. From what I can recall, the Coop had a healthy balance in their bank account, maybe about Q16,000. At that venture, the coop was managing their tienda, had just decided to invest in the salinas for a third year, and voted to open up the minibank. To give some perspective, the Tienda maybe rakes in Q500 in profit on a good month and the minibank about Q100. I did a cost of production with my Treasurer for the salinas in February and found that at the end of the season (December- April) they will have invested about Q55,000 in the salt production. How would we pay for this you may ask? Ideally we'd be getting funds by selling our salt- yet we weren't selling ANY (whole 'nother blog post). Luckily though, in February we received another source of income. We were contracted by the local schools to source the ingredients for their daily refracciones (snacks)- they would deposit money into our bank account and we’d purchase and deliver the food. In March they deposited Q48,000 for the next three months worth of snacks. Are you still with me? Lets recap. Started off with Q16,000, the tienda and minibank = no real income generation to speak of, the salina needs Q55,000 to operate, and the schools have given us Q48,000 to buy snacks to last through April. Two weeks ago, when shit hit the fan (sorry mom, its the best descriptor i’ve got) we hadn’t sold ANY salt. So where are we getting the Q55,000 to pay for the saltworks to continue operating you may ask? Classic case of robbing peter to pay paul. The president was using the only money we had in the bank- money from the schools- to pay the saltworks expenses. No one was keeping tabs on the money so it was just being tossed around willy nilly (mom is that better?). Unfortunately, half way through April the funds ran out. Not only did we not have money to pay for the salinas but we didn’t have money for the schools. Yeah, sorry kiddies, no snacks for you for the next month. Seno Maritza explains it as thus, “the Coop had a fiesta with the money and now we are feeling a pain in the head”. Yep. all gone. My coop is completely broke, actually they aren’t just broke their financials are in the red- a deep negative maroonish red.

So here we are en crisis, up to our eyebrows in debt- can’t pay the salina, tienda or minibank employees. Jokingly our treasurer asked the employees if they’d like their salary in salt (funny because the word originates from when Roman soldiers were paid in salt- nerd fact - don’t judge). Today though things started looking up, we got our first salt sale of the season. A guy from the capital bought Q8,500 worth of it. Unfortunately, I think we are still going to be digging ourselves out of debt for quite a long time to come. On the bright side, Its giving me a lot of work- first task to tackle- teaching the treasurer financial book keeping by dictation.

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